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The LGBTQAI+ community & mental health
  20 Jul, 2021    

"The pain associated with the social stigma of being LGBTQ, of living in a culture that, for the most part, is homophobic and heterosexist, is traumatic."

The abovementioned painful yet truthful line was said by psychotherapist & clinical social worker, Craig Sloane. While WHO has estimated that about 7.5% of Indians suffer from some mental disorder and by end of 2020, roughly 20 percent of India was suffering from mental illnesses. Most of it, of course, goes undiagnosed due to the stigma that lingers around mental health issues. A large number of this affected population comprises members from the LGBTQAI+ community due to the oppression and hatred that they receive from society. Studies suggest that the most common factors correlating to this are lack of family acceptance, social banishment, bullying & discrimination.

In 2018, when India put away the barbaric Section 377 for good, rainbow flags fluttered in the air of freedom with pride marches and millions of individuals coming out & proud about their sexual orientations. Legally yes, they had been accepted. Socially? Not yet. Both homosexuals & heterosexuals go through their forms of problems, with the baseline being 'lack of acceptance'. And yet, individuals from the queer community have a higher risk of being diagnosed with suicide/ and or depression than the general population. Females are supposed to act lady-like and males are supposed to act manly and not embrace any forms of femineity (femineity being the use of makeup, nail polish, skirts, etc.) femineity here, again has been stereotyped. Several individuals also consider themselves as 'non-binary' and are hit with statements like 'what does that even mean, are you going through a phase?' "decide if you are male or female". Millions of individuals talk about how liberating it is to dress up in the way they want, to be with who they want, to DO what they want! But when they are shamed for being themselves, it takes a toll on the mental health and leaves them feeling inadequate and invalid. Homophobia, biphobia & transphobia leaves room for an increase in mental health conditions in this community. The sad part is that there is a lack of training in LGBTQIA+ related issues. Moreover, some therapists are performing 'corrective' or 'reparative' therapies on these individuals which leads to multiple cases of self-harm and even suicide.

Having support in life is extremely essential. Members of the community have come up with support groups and marches for increasing awareness, but most importantly, supporting those who need help. Change is essential and it needs to continue to occur within society to challenge all forms of oppression on the various levels. One must acknowledge the effort it takes for them to fight for their individuality along with healing from the wounds of stereotypes. One must respect them for who they are.

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."

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