Many things go into a person’s mental health and well-being—social connection, having a safe place to live, practicing effective coping strategies, and more.
According to Mental Health America, individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ are more than three times as likely to experience a mental health condition than those who identify as straight. This may be because of a lack of support system, traumatic experiences, discrimination, and other factors.
Approximately 20 to 30 percent of LGBTQ+ individuals misuse substances compared to 9 percent of the general population according to Mental Health America. The data also shows 25 percent of LGBTQ+ individuals abuse alcohol specifically compared to 5 to 10 percent of the general population.
Substance use can often coexist with other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
“Using substances as ‘self-medicating’ can be a way that some people attempt to mitigate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and/or feelings of loneliness, isolation or rejection,” said Darcey Cunningham, MA, LPC, outpatient psychotherapist at the Mental Health Center of Denver. “A sense of belonging is a natural need for human beings, and this group has historically been denied this by family, peers, religion, society, and the government.”
The Colorado Department of Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health has resources for prevention, treatment, and recovery from substance use and mental health disorders at colorado.gov/ladders.
Based on a report from Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, young adults ages 18 to 25 who identified as LGBTQ+ in a 2018 point-in-time survey experienced homelessness at more than twice the rate of their peers who are heterosexual and cisgender (a person whose gender matches the sex assigned at birth).
According to the report, homelessness is more common in the LGBTQ+ community for the following reasons:
1) Running away from home because of family rejection
2) Being forced out of the home because of family rejection
3) Experiencing physical, emotional, or sexual abuse at home or in school
4) Aging out of the foster care system
5) Experiencing financial or emotional neglect from family members
Urban Peak offers support for Denver youth ages 15 to 24 who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of experiencing homelessness. Visit urbanpeak.org to learn more.
Based on statistics from Mental Health America, LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts, and engage in self-harm compared to youths who are straight. Also, the data shows 65 percent of individuals who identify as transgender experience suicidal ideation.
If you are concerned about someone’s well-being, here are some warning signs to watch for:
- Talking about suicide, death, or preoccupation with dying
- Trouble eating or sleeping (excessive eating/sleeping or unable to eat/sleep)
- Significant changes in behavior and/or personality
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of interest in activities, work, school, hobbies, or social interaction
- Giving away prized possessions
- Increased drug and/or alcohol use
You can find more warning signs and suicide prevention resources at mhcd.org/suicide-prevention.
If someone you know needs help, take action. Your prompt response can save a life.
What to Do:
- Take all suicide threats seriously. Listen and express concern in a nonjudgmental way.
- Connect the individual with professional help.
- Ask questions openly. (“Do you have a plan? Will you talk with someone who can help?”)
- Show you care.
What Not to Do:
- Do not keep it a secret.
- Do not sidestep the issue or treat it lightly.
- Do not leave the person alone.
- Do not offer simple solutions.
- Do not judge.
- Do not offer or suggest drugs or alcohol.
- Do not try to be a therapist.
If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis, please call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK (8255), or text TALK to 38255. Colorado Crisis Services also operates six walk-in crisis centers across metro Denver that are open 24/7 and offer confidential, in-person crisis support. Learn more at coloradocrisisservices.org.
Accessing Mental Health Services
As the stress of COVID-19 is impacting our community’s well-being, the Mental Health Center of Denver remains committed to offering mental health services remotely by video and phone. Telehealth is a safe, confidential, and convenient way to get help. Visit mhcd.org/access-services, or call 303-504-7900.