Public health officials, medical professionals, and policymakers can take important steps to help address mental health by understanding the unique challenges that underrepresented groups face. Among these groups, the LGBTQ+ community is at greater risk for depression, anxiety, and mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidality than those who identify as heterosexual.
LGBTQ+ individuals who are looking for support and allies interested in helping their family and friends should learn the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety, and discover some resources for getting help, such as LGBTQ counseling.
LGBTQ+ Depression and Anxiety Statistics
A look at LGBTQ+ depression and anxiety statistics reveals how urgent the need is for LGBTQ counseling and support. Here are 12 statistics about depression, anxiety, and related disorders in the LGBTQ+ community:
- According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 1 in 2 LGB adults struggled with illicit drugs, and 3 in 5 struggled with alcohol use.
The rate of serious mental illness for LGBTQ+ individuals ages 18-49 has significantly increased from 2016 to 2019, according to SAMHSA.
- According to the 2019 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health by The Trevor Project, 39% of LGBTQ youth have had serious thoughts of suicide, and 71% of LGBTQ youth have had feelings of hopelessness and sadness.
- Mental health statistics from SAGE, an advocacy and services organization for LGBT elders, reveal that 53% of older LGBTQ+ people feel isolated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people living a life of loneliness and social isolation have a 50% increased risk of dementia.
- The rate of LGBTQ youth homelessness is high: According to True Colors United, LGBTQ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness. Youth homelessness can create negative health outcomes, including mental health, according to a study published in The Journal of School Nursing.
- U.S. Census data reveals that 13% of LGBT adults faced food insecurity over a seven-day period during the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly double the number of non-LGBT adults (7%). A strong association exists between food insecurity and mental health, according to a study published in BMC Public Health. The data reveals increased risk of anxiety and depression: 257% higher for anxiety and 253% higher for depression.
- The onset of adolescent suicide ideation and behavior comes earlier and progresses faster in LGBTQ+ adolescents than in their heterosexual counterparts, according to a study published in Pediatrics.
- In a report from the Center for American Progress, the State of the LGBTQ Community in 2020, over 1 in 3 LGBTQ individuals in the U.S. faced discrimination. Discrimination can affect health, including mental health, according to a 2019 study published in BMC Health Services Research that revealed the association between everyday discrimination and mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
- In 2019, mental illness and/or substance abuse disorder affected 7.6 million LGB adults, an increase of more than 20% from the previous year, according to SAMHSA.
- In a study of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Trevor Project found that 53% of LGBTQ youth had experienced depression and that 55% had experienced anxiety during the pandemic; 25% reported that they were unable to access mental health care services.
- In 2019, LGBT youth attempted suicide at a higher rate (23%) than heterosexual youth (6%), according to a CDC report on suicidal ideation and behaviors among high school students.
- LGBT youth have a higher risk for mental health problems due to stress than heterosexual youth, according to the CDC; this can lead to depression and risk behaviors, such as violence, illicit drug use, and suicide attempts.
Signs of Depression and Anxiety
While depression and anxiety are often used in conjunction when describing mental health issues, they’re different and affect people in different ways.
What’s depression? Here are some facts:
- Depression is a mental health disorder marked by a depressed mood or loss of interest in activities.
While every individual can feel sad or apathetic at times, for people with depression, those negative feelings can significantly impair life daily.
- Biological and psychological factors can cause depression.
- Social factors that cause stress, such as anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, can lead individuals to experience a depressive mood.
What’s anxiety? Here are some facts:
- Anxiety is a mental health disorder that involves excessive fear or anxiety.
- According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), anxiety disorders affect about 30% of adults at one point or another in their lives.
- It’s normal for a person to feel anxious or nervous. For example, moments before giving a public speech can cause individuals to feel anxiety.
- For people with anxiety disorder, feelings of anxiety or nervousness hinder their ability to function normally, affecting personal relationships, school, and work.
Recognizing the signs of depression and anxiety, and the differences between the two conditions, is important to help LGBTQ+ individuals overcome mental health challenges that hamper their ability to thrive in their lives. Signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety can include the following:
- Eating disorders. Anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can lead people to develop compulsive rituals with their food, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of American (ADAA). Anxiety is also tied to common eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
- Behaviors that contribute to violence. Emotions associated with depression can lead people predisposed to violence to take their aggressions out on someone else. While anxiety is associated with extreme fear and not anger, a misconception is that little to no association exists between anxiety and violence. However, for some people with anxiety, their natural response is fight over flight.
- Risky behaviors. Individuals with mental health challenges can often place themselves in risky situations, from driving drunk to engaging in irresponsible sexual behavior.
- Substance abuse. For individuals struggling with depression or anxiety, drugs and alcohol may sometimes appear to provide relief for their problems. While these substances can temporarily bring about a sense of happiness or subside worries, they can also lead to addiction, which can make anxiety and depression symptoms worse.
- Suicide attempts. Even when symptoms of anxiety are present, the most likely cause of suicide is depression. People often decide to attempt suicide when they’ve lost hope. While suicide is closely associated with depression, anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also lead to suicidal thoughts. According to Verywell Mind, suicide rates have been on the rise since 2006. Among LGBTQ+ youth, attempted suicide is three times more likely when compared with heterosexual youth.
LGBTQ+ Depression and Anxiety Resources
Individuals looking to learn more about depression and anxiety among LGBTQ+ people can use these resources to learn more.
- American Psychiatric Association, Diversity & Health Equity Education: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning: Resources including mental health facts, tool kits, online learning modules, blogs, articles, and links to informative books.
- American Psychiatric Association, Working with LGBTQ Patients: Information for individuals working with LGBTQ+ patients, including data on stigma and risk factors, best practices, and guiding principles.
- American Psychological Association, Practice Guidelines for LGB Clients: Twenty-one practice guidelines to assist psychologists working with LGB clients.
- High Focus Centers, Common Mental Health Issues Affecting LGBTQ Individuals: Information on why people in the LGBTQ+ community are at greater risk for mental health struggles and common mental health disorders impacting the community.
- GoodTherapy, LGBTQ Issues / Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation: A discussion of the discrimination that LGBTQ people still experience, even amid growing cultural acceptance of gender and sexual diversity.
- Healthline, Depression in the LGBTQIA+ Population: Information on why LGBTQIA+ students are more likely than heterosexual students to report high levels of depression.
- Mental Health America, LGBTQ+ Communities And Mental Health: A wide range of statistics regarding LGBTQ+ people with mental health struggles.
- Mental Health America, LGBTQ+ Mental Health: Insights From MHA Screening: Key findings of a 2019 study that screened nearly 300,000 LGBTQ individuals.
LGBTQ+ Counseling Resources
Counseling is important for LGBTQ+ individuals suffering from anxiety and depression because it can help them manage their mental health and improve their daily lives. LGBTQ+ counseling allows individuals to question, be open and honest, recognize the signs of anxiety and depression, and acquire essential tools and skills for coping with symptoms.
Counseling can also improve the lives of the families and friends of LGBTQ+ individuals and help them support their loved ones.
Where to Find LGBTQ+ Counseling Resources
The following list of links can help individuals find LGBTQ+ counseling resources, including informational websites, tools, and articles from advocacy groups and healthcare organizations:
- Healthline, Finding an LGBTQIA+ Affirming Therapist: Questions and Answers to Help: Information about LGBTQIA+ affirming and empathetic therapy, including how to find a therapist, types of therapy, and ways to afford therapy.
- Mental Health America, How Do I Find LGBTQ Friendly Therapy?: Insights on how to research potential therapists before making an appointment since not all therapists are knowledgeable or sympathetic to LGBTQ issues.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness, LGBTQI: A discussion of the risk factors of LGBTQI mental health and a step-by-step guide on how to find a mental health professional.
LGBTQ+ Resources for Families and Friends
The following informational resources and tools enable families and friends to help LGBTQ+ individuals overcome the struggles of depression and anxiety:
- National Center for Transgender Equality: Information for transgender individuals, including the right to access healthcare.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT): Information about and links to national survey reports, agency and federal programs, and related behavioral health resources.
- Society for Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansive Identities (SAIGE): Educational and support resources for LGBTQ individuals including information for promoting cultural competency on LGBTQ issues.
- PFLAG: Support and information for families and friends when a loved one comes out.
Where to Get Help: LGBTQ+ Counseling Services
The following list of resources points to websites, advocacy groups, and health organizations that provide LGBTQ+ counseling services:
- LGBT National Health Center: Confidential peer support for LGBT youth, adults, and seniors via phone, text, and online chat.
- Talkspace, Online Counseling for the LGBTQIA+ Community: Resource for individuals to connect online with licensed therapists experienced working with the LGBTQIA+ community.
- The Trevor Project: A support network for LGBTQ youth including resources for crisis intervention and suicide prevention and a 24-hour text line.
Know When to Get Help
For LGBTQ+ individuals, as well as their families and friends, it’s important to know how to identify the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety. This knowledge is key to determining when they need professional help. Knowing when to get help can reduce the risk of injury prevention, accidental death, or suicide.
Professional counselors play a key role in helping LGBTQ+ individuals cope with depression and anxiety. Those interested in learning more about working with LGBTQ+ clients should seek out informational resources that can help them better serve this community.