Black LGBTQIA+ and Mental Health

Mental health is a subject often swept under the rug, ignored completely, or just generally misunderstood in the Black community. We, collectively, would rather reside in painful ignorance than address the very real reality of the lives of some of our closest friends and family members. We allow fear and the lack of distrust in misconceptions to control the way we combat and deal with mental illness. And, quite frankly, it’s killing us.​

Mental illness rates are especially high in LGBTQIA+ youth though this fact is hardly a concern in the black community. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), members of the LGBTQIA+ community are 3 times more likely to experience mental illnesses such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder. NAMI also reports that LGBTQIA+ individuals are at a higher risk for suicide and are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide or experience suicidal thoughts than those who identify as straight. Despite this, LGBTQIA+ issues are often put on the back burner in terms of issues plaguing the black community – almost the same way mental illness (in general) is.

Black LGBTQIA+ youth are belittled and invalidated in ways that Black straight individuals have not and will never experience. Statistically, homophobia in the black community is no more or less of a problem than it is among white Americans or other ethnic minorities. Our problem lies within the general disregard for Black individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+, LGBTQIA+ specific issues, and how those issues are affecting those individuals. ​

We need to discuss additional prejudice and discrimination faced by Black LGBTQIA+ individuals and how those added stressors contribute to an indisputable decline in mental health. We need to debunk misconceptions and educate ourselves on mental health accordingly. When combating mental health in Black LGBTQIA+ youth, we have to assess and act in accordance to mental stressors that might stem from sexual orientation-based discrimination. Acknowledgement is key.

Facilitating open dialogue about LGBTQIA+ specific mental health will prompt positive change and advancement in the black community. Healthy discussions with your friends and family about their day-to-day concerns and complications are important. You don’t always have to offer a solution to their problems – you just have to listen and insure their feelings are validated. Never underestimate the power of basic communication.

If you or a loved one are experiencing trouble with mental health, there are a variety of online resources available.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, completely confidential support for those contemplating suicide.

The Trevor Project is a non-judgmental service for LGBTQIA+ youth self-harm and/or suicide intervention and prevention.

Trans Lifeline is a unique suicide prevention hotline specifically for and staffed by transgender people.

Mental health, especially among LGBTQIA+ youth, has and will always be an issue plaguing the black community. It’s about time we started addressing it.