Young adult holding an LGBTQ+ flag.

How Discrimination Impacts LGBTQ+ Individuals

Whether we realize it or not, structural stigma, inequality, and discrimination are all around us. Every day, individuals experience different types of marginalization which takes a toll on their mental health and well-being.

In this blog, we’ll discuss how discrimination impacts LGBTQ+ individuals and how those struggling with their mental health can find the support and resources they need – and deserve.

Structural Stigma, Inequality, and Discrimination

Stigma has been defined as a set of negative and unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something. For example, mental health stigma is when someone negatively views an individual who is experiencing a mental health issue or condition.

Stigmatization is complex because it does not only occur in one place or aspect of an individual’s life – it occurs on multiple levels, often at the same time. There are 3 main types of stigmatization: intrapersonal (self), interpersonal (others), and structural (laws, policies, systems, etc.).

When individuals experience structural stigma, inequality, and discrimination in their lives, they are left feeling alienated and marginalized. As a result, many individuals who are struggling with mental health issues don’t get the help they need. This is an important factor to remember when learning how discrimination impacts LGBTQ+ individuals specifically.

Young adult sitting in an individual therapy session.

Mental Health of LGBTQ+ Communities

As we mentioned before, mental health stigma can have harmful effects on many individuals. This becomes more true when talking about the mental health of LGBTQ+ communities.

Sexual orientation and gender identity don’t make an individual inherently prone to developing mental health issues, however, they are at higher risk because of how society mistreats and stigmatizes them.

Individuals in the LGBTQ+ community are more than 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. Furthermore, the Trevor Project has estimated that, in the U.S., more than 1.8 million LGBTQ+ individuals (ages 13-24) seriously consider suicide each year and of those individuals, at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the suicide prevention and crisis hotline, call us at 610-480-8919, or seek medical help at your local emergency room immediately.

Negative treatment such as bullying and rejection, have both been consistent factors in the statistics mentioned above as well as LGBTQ+ individuals developing depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders. When people hear the term “bullying”, they tend to think it only occurs in school, or within the younger generations.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Young adults (and adults), can experience bullying as well, and while it may be presented in different ways, it’s just as – if not more – harmful.

Having awareness and staying educated about these situations is key to understanding how discrimination impacts LGBTQ+ individuals. Continue reading to learn more about different types of discrimination and victimization LGBTQ+ individuals experience as they get older.

Workplace Discrimination or Harassment

Systemic discrimination, also called institutionalized discrimination, refers to a method of discrimination that occurs regularly in the workplace.

Workplace discrimination or harassment not only creates a hostile work environment but also creates a disadvantage for those who are victims. For members of the LGBTQ+ community, this type of discrimination can come in many forms including:

  • Being fired.
  • Being denied a promotion.
  • Having work hours cut.
  • Experiencing verbal, physical, or sexual harassment.

According to a 2023 survey, 23% of LGBTQ+ employees experienced discrimination in the workplace. In the same survey, 23.7% of LGBTQ+ individuals experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when applying for jobs.

Housing Discrimination or Harassment

Understanding how discrimination impacts LGBTQ+ individuals goes beyond the workplace, sometimes it can follow them home.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), any discrimination in renting a home, getting a mortgage or home insurance, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities based on sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity) is prohibited under the federal Fair Housing Act.

Even still, nearly 3 in 10 LGBTQ+ adults have reported experiencing some kind of housing discrimination or harassment in the past year because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status. This could include, but is not limited to:

  • Being prevented or discouraged from buying a home.
  • Being denied access to a shelter.
  • Experiencing harassment from housemates or neighbors.

The National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP), found that 46% of LGBTQ+ renters fear discrimination in their housing search. In addition, the anxiety LGBTQ+ individuals feel about these challenges often leads to hiding their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Medical & Health Care Discrimination or Harassment

Medical and health care can also play a role in how discrimination impacts LGBTQ+ individuals. Research has shown that self-identified LGBTQ+ individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigmatization and discrimination.

Approximately 8% of LGBTQ+ individuals and nearly 27% of transgender individuals have reported being denied health care outright, this has resulted in many of them avoiding medical care because of negative past experiences.

Proper medical and health care is an essential part of anyone’s life and becomes even more important when individuals are at a higher risk of developing mental health issues. This is one of the many reasons why ensuring members of the LGBTQ+ community feel supported and safe when receiving care should be a priority.

Two people holding hands with LGBTQ+ bands on their wrists.

How to Support Members of the LGBTQ+ Community

It’s important to learn about the support and resources available to the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to programs and services dedicated to helping members of the LGBTQ+ community, there are also things parents, friends, and other members of the community can do to become an ally.

Don’t Assume

It’s important to remember that every person is unique and may identify or express themselves differently. By making assumptions about someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, we feed into the harmful stereotypes formed by society.

Rather than making up our minds about who a person is, we should give everyone the opportunity to tell their story themselves. Sharing your pronouns and how you identify can make others feel comfortable to do the same.

Speak Up

Sometimes, it’s hard for us to recognize discrimination if it isn’t affecting us directly. By keeping our eyes open and spreading awareness, we are more likely to notice something when it’s wrong. In doing this, we then have the opportunity to speak up.

If you witness homophobia, transphobia, or anti-LGBTQ+ harassment and discrimination, it’s important to say something, even if you aren’t the one being treated unfairly.

Stay Educated

One of the best ways to be supportive is to stay educated. Keeping up to date with the issues affecting members of the LGBTQ+ community allows us to gain a better understanding of the challenges they undergo and the roles we play in solving them.

Malvern Behavioral Health works to ensure every patient feels safe and welcomed and receives the type of quality care we wish for our loved ones. Mental health professionals can help members of the LGBTQ+ community and their families find the type of treatment programs and resources best suited for their needs.

Group therapy session with young adults.

Our Wisteria Program is dedicated to serving members of the LGBTQ+ community who are struggling with mental health conditions. Contact us to learn more today.