As progressive as the US has become, the ugly reality of bigotry continues to loom over the heads of the LGBT community. From hate crimes to negative comments, everyday life can feel like a landmine. Dealing with bigots and biased people is exhausting and downright scary at times. As inexcusable as it is, there are ways to deal with these people that deflate the hate without going toe-to-toe and resorting to a physical altercation.
Depression, anxiety, substance use issues, suicidal thoughts; no one should try to deal with these challenges on their own, yet everyday thousands of LGBTQ people are doing that exact thing. Mental health stigma has improved dramatically over the past twenty years, but it still exists. When you combine the mental health stigma and the stigma that prevails in some subsections of culture regarding the LGBTQ population, it is easy to understand why it is so hard to reach out.
Seeking Help is Winning
The irony is, when LGBTQ people reach out for help with emotional health challenges, it is a sign of victory. Closed minded bigotry is the very thing that has kept people closeted, and to allow that same ignorance to prevent you from accessing care is a step back toward that closet. Challenges with mental health are exhausting and trying to manage these issues alone exacerbates the feelings of loneliness and isolation that perpetuates them; it is a truly vicious cycle.
When we reach out for help, it reduces the burden tremendously. Just expressing your pain to another person can decrease the struggle by the simple fact that it is no longer a secret that you bare alone. Trying to pretend everything is ok when it is not may put your life on the line. Stoicism is dangerous.
How to Ask for Help
There is no wrong way to ask for help. You can literally do any of these things:
• Reach out to a 24 hour hotline
• Message a friend
• Email your grandma
• Talk to a counselor
• Join an online or in-person support group
• Call one of your old mentors
• Look into employee resources at work
• Talk to a family member
• Reach out to others you know who have also struggled
• Write about your feelings in a letter to a friend, family member or person you admire
Regardless of how you do it, reach out for support. If you start to notice yourself entertaining thoughts of ending your life, call a crisis hotline immediately, 1-800-273-8255, or text GO to 741741 and a trained professional will contact you right away to offer support. LGBTQ-specific supports are great resources and will spare you from needing to make the decision about whether to share your status or wonder if the person you are talking to is biased. There are tons of counselors who specialize in LGBTQ needs and they can be found easily on Psychology Today website through the “find a therapist” option, where you can search by location, specialties, and a variety of other choices.
People who are experiencing emotional health difficulties should not try to cope with it alone. With all the help that is out there, staying silent about one’s pain is unnecessary. Life is too short to be miserable. LGBTQ people can access support from counselors, peers, and loved ones by simply talking about it. It may be difficult to get started, but the relief will be well worth it.