Minority stress: A key stressor behind increased mental disorders among LGBT people

Minority stress: A key stressor behind increased mental disorders among LGBT people

“I can’t let anyone find out that I’m not straight. It would be so humiliating. My friends would hate me; I just know it. They might even want to beat me up. … I guess I’m no good to anyone . . . not even God. Life is so cruel and unfair. Sometimes I feel like disappearing from the face of this earth.” – Excerpts from the diary of 16-year-old Bobby Griffith scribbled by him two weeks before committing suicide.

Due to the wide prevalence of discriminatory practices against homosexuals, the prevalence of stress and mental disorders is comparatively much higher among them. With so many constraints and prejudices restraining them, there are numerous compelling and tragic accounts of mental health challenges among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The heart-rending story of Bobby Griffith is a glaring example. He, after realizing his sexual preferences attempted to acknowledge himself and discovered some solace amidst his rural group and family in California.

However, to his horror, he found that his family, companions and religion held such unusual sexual preferences as abhorrent and perverted. Towards the end, increased stigma and prejudices pushed him to a life of desolation. The unrelenting tirades of his mother and other members of his religion took a heavy toll on his mental health that triggered a range of depressive symptoms—which eventually led to his premature death.

With the increased negative view of homosexuality, the LGBT people frequently witness strong and disapproving remarks. Therefore, many experts have rightly pointed that the LGBT people are wrestling a demon far more powerful than other problems.

Mismatch between social environment and homosexuals triggers mental disorders

Bobby Griffith is not the only case of a gay man committing suicide due to the pessimistic social environment. According to a study, gay and bisexual men reported extreme degrees of psychological distress compared to heterosexual men. Compared to heterosexual men, both gay and bisexual men were three times more likely to be diagnosed with major depression and 4.7 times more likely to meet the criteria of panic disorder. Moreover, the chances of suffering from two or more disorders are incredibly high in gay-bisexual men. They were more likely to suffer from the problem of drug and alcohol abuse.

Social stress among the LGBT people can be illustrated as minority stress to specify the role of heteronormativity, rejection and internalized homophobia in triggering mental conditions. Based on the distal-proximal concept of Ilan H. Meyer, distinguished professor and a senior scholar for public policy and sexual orientation law at the Williams Institute of UCLA, the idea of minority stress seems more relevant due to its concern with the effect of external social conditions and structures on the targeted people.

According to Lazarus and Folkman, mismatch between  a person and his or her social environment is the primary risk factor for mental disorder. Relevant researches have highlighted that people’s state of mind have their grounding in the realities of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. Most of the stressors arise due to the position of a person in his or her society. Such a lack of harmony forces the LGBT people to hide their identity due to the innate fear of harm or rejection. Moreover, they may be extremely vigilant while interacting with others.

Help is one call away

For many LGBT individuals, struggling amidst increased social isolation becomes a tiring task. Moreover, because of their sexuality, they are likely to bear the brunt of discrimination, desolation, prejudices, etc. from their families and peers. Moreover, due to the lack of guidance and support, they are likely to self-medicate themselves using substances like drugs to comfort themselves and alleviate stress.

If you or your loved one is struggling with mental disorders, it is recommended to seek help. The California Mental Health Helpline aims at helping people with mental health problems by providing information on the best mental health facilities in California. Call at our 24/7 helpline 855-559-3923 or connect with us over online chat to locate the mental health rehabilitation centers in California that offer customized recovery plans depending on the patient’s specific needs.