LGBTQIA+ Mental Health Toolkit: How To Navigate The Complexities Of Well-Being
We all suffer, and we all suffer for different reasons. The journey of navigating mental health can be challenging for anyone, but it can be particularly complex for individuals who identify as Queer. For the uninitiated, ‘Queer’ is a reclaimed term that represents sexual and gender-diverse folks. Individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community often face unique stressors and discrimination that can impact our mental well-being.
Our mundane problems can start to feel very pronounced when we begin to wonder if the courts will grant us our basic rights, or whether our parents and friends will stand by us. In professional settings, we grapple with the fear of being ostracised on account of our sexualities and the looks of disgust we often get upon 'discovery' or disclosure of our identities.
To help grapple with the never-ending struggle that is being Queer in a world so overtly cishet, we developed a starter mental health toolkit specifically tailored for individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+.
Build a Supportive Network
Your chosen family is extremely crucial, so find other queers and allies. Creating a network of supportive individuals is essential for mental well-being. You may seek out LGBTQIA+ support groups, community centres, and online forums where you can connect with people who understand your experiences. At the same time, it can be helpful to engage in activities that foster a sense of belonging and help build strong relationships. If you're experiencing violence, harassment, or discrimination, develop a safety plan to ensure your physical and emotional well-being. This can include identifying safe spaces, trusted contacts, and resources that can help during difficult situations.
Learn about queer history. Knowing who you are as a queer person and who your queer social ancestors were and what they did to get us where we are today could help establish a coherent narrative of your identity. The feelings of isolation that accompany when you feel like “Am I the only one?” could diminish with a shared sense of knowledge. In addition, educating yourself empowers you to advocate for your own well-being and enables you to educate others and combat misconceptions.
Get moving for and with the community. Engage with the LGBTQIA+ community by attending and organising local events, joining social or advocacy groups, or participating in online forums. Building connections with others who share similar experiences and identities can provide a sense of belonging, reduce isolation, and enhance overall mental well-being.
Be nice to yourself in thoughts, words and actions! Develop a self-care routine tailored to your needs. One hour a day, if you can manage, do something that gives you JOY (big or small!) This can include activities such as exercise, meditation, journaling, engaging in hobbies, or spending time in nature. Nope, going on alcohol binges and chain smoking everyday isn’t self-care. Prioritising self-care could help manage stress, reduce anxiety, and improve your overall mental health.
Access LGBTQIA+ Affirmative Therapy
Seeking therapy doesn’t have to be the last option. Consider working with mental health professionals who are knowledgeable about LGBTQIA+ issues and can provide affirmative therapy. Affirmative care creates a supportive and validating environment that understands and respects diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
Know what you are good at and capitalise it! To develop resilience, you have to focus on your strengths. With this focus, it’s possible to live a productive life that doesn’t burden your sense of being. Become aware of what is your contextual advantage and privilege - yep, we all have it, don’t let the cultural wars paint you as a forever victim. Remember that your experiences have shaped you into a strong individual who has overcome unique challenges. Some of those past and ongoing experiences have been very traumatic, but you are not a prisoner of your past. Use your present choices to charge ahead with what you have right now!
For LGBTQIA+ individuals, navigating mental well-being is possible with self-compassion, resilience, and community support. It’s imperative to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, and there are resources available to assist you in your journey toward mental health and happiness. The reasons we suffer might be different, but a part of the solution is to find, cherish and love the humanity in you!