Here’s How to Help Black LGBTQ People Get Mental Health Care
Black LGBTQ people face discrimination and marginalization on at least two fronts—because of their skin color and because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
For Black Americans, systemic racism limits access to everything from quality food to housing to education. Being LGBTQ compounds the issues Black Americans face, making it even harder to get access to resources like mental health care.
Black LGBTQ youth, for example, are just as likely to report mental health issues like depression and suicidal thoughts as the general LGBTQ population. Yet they’re less likely to get the care they need.
LGBTQ people of color are also twice as likely as white LGBTQ people to say they have been personally discriminated against when applying for jobs and when interacting with the police.
Disparities in Access to Mental Health Care
A report by the Williams Institute at UCLA sheds light on the mental health, physical health, and social and cultural experiences of the Black LGBTQ population. Here are some of the report’s findings:
26% of Black LGBTQ adults have been diagnosed with depression, compared to 15% of Black non-LGBTQ adults.
79% of Black LGBTQ adults reported experiencing verbal insults or abuse; 60% were threatened with violence. These experiences can harm mental health.
Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (29%) women were more likely to be diagnosed with depression than Black LGBT (21%) men.
Nearly 40% of African American LGBTQ adults have a household income below $24,000 per year. Being low income makes a person much less likely to get the physical and mental health resources they need.
20% of Black LGBTQ women and 18% of Black LzzGBTQ men are uninsured, compared to 10.9% of the general population. Being uninsured or underinsured leads to worse physical and mental health outcomes.
An earlier report by the Williams Institute found that 47.6% of Black transgender people had suicidal thoughts in the last 12 months; 81.2% had thoughts of suicide at some point in their lives, while 46.6% had at least one suicide attempt at some point in their lives.
These numbers show the devastating impacts stigma, discrimination, and marginalization have on Black LGBTQ people.
The Domino Effect of Stigma
Stigma plays a major role in the adversities Black LGBTQ communities face. Even with anti-discrimination laws in place and some in the works, stigma leads to discriminatory practices in housing, healthcare, and education, and in the workplace and public spaces.
Pervasive stigma and discrimination mean that Black LGBTQ folks have higher rates of poverty and a higher risk of homelessness. They also have a higher risk of being exposed to violence, and they have more negative encounters with the police.
It’s up to us as allies to advocate for our Black LGBTQ+ family. Here are a few things you can do:
Support Black LGBTQ youth organizations.
Donate to organizations that offer resources to Black queer people. The Trevor Project offers crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people under 25. Also consider providing direct support by becoming a crisis counselor.
The Freedom Fund posts bail to secure the safe release of LGBTQ+ people who cannot afford bail. The organization also helps raise awareness about the epidemic of over-incarceration of LGBTQ folks.
Vote for LGBTQ candidates.
Last year hundreds of queer candidates won seats in state legislatures and Congress, including Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones, who became the first-ever gay Black candidates elected to Congress. You can keep this momentum going by supporting Black LGBTQ candidates where you live.
Check-in with Black LGBTQ youth.
Ask the Black LGBTQ youth in your lives about their support system and what you can do to help. If they’re struggling and need access to therapy or professional support, offer to help them find a qualified counselor.
Support the Equality Act.
The Equality Act would expand federal civil rights laws to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, jury service, and federally funded health, education, and other programs. It would also protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in public places and spaces.
In February, the House of Representatives voted to pass the Equality Act, but it’s under assault by conservatives. You can help by calling on your senator to pass the Equality Act and supporting pro-LGBTQ legislation in your state.
Want to know more about Black LGBTQ and mental health issues?
Check out DCP’s inspiring and thought-provoking podcasts. Start with Inner Space, a podcast about mental health featuring Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen.
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