If you're experiencing bullying or discrimination because of
your sexuality it most likely feels horrible.
It can make it difficult to enjoy life and to feel understood
and supported and may leave you feeling unhappy or frustrated. If
your difficulties seem to be going on for weeks or months, or are
impacting on things like your sleep, appetite, school work or your
concentration, then it might be time to get some help.
Sexuality, gender identity and mental health
Not all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered or Intersex
(LGBTI) people face the same issues in their lives, but there are
some common experiences that can affect your wellbeing. These can
- Feeling 'different' from other people
- Feeling pressure to deny or change your sexuality
- Worries about 'coming out' to friends and family members,
- The possibility of being rejected or ridiculed
- Difficulty fitting in and coping at school
- Bullying, whether verbal or physical
- Feeling unsupported or misunderstood by family or friends
These pressures can be very stressful, especially when combined
with all the other issues in your life such as managing school or
university, finding a job, forming relationships and making sense
of your identity and your place in the world.
Mental health is about being able to work and study to your full
potential, cope with day-to-day life stresses, be involved in your
community, and live your life in a free and satisfying way.
Discrimination, abuse and being made to feel 'different' because of
your sexuality or gender identity can make it difficult to enjoy
and to have a sense of wellbeing. It can make it hard to ask for
help when problems come up, and to know where to turn when you need
help and support.
Why do mental health problems develop?
There is no single cause of mental illnesses. Instead, they
usually result from a number of overlapping factors including:
- Biological factors such as the genes inherited from your
- Early life experiences such as abuse, neglect, or the loss of
someone close to you
- Individual factors such as your level of self-esteem, coping
skills and thinking styles
- Current circumstances, for example stress at school or work,
worries about money, difficult personal relationships, or problems
within your family
When does your mental health become a problem?
Things to look out for include:
- Changes in behaviour - such as being more or less talkative, or
- Changes in mood - such as feeling sadder or more anxious than
- Changes in relationships - for example falling out with friends
or your partner, or conflict with family
- Changes in appetite and sleep patterns - such as sleeping or
eating more or less than usual, or losing or gaining weight
- Changes in coping - feeling overwhelmed or tired of life
While it's normal to experience some of these changes from time to
time, it's time to ask for some help if they last longer than
usual, affect most areas of your life, or stop you from doing the
things you usually enjoy.
Getting help early can reduce the effects of mental health
problems on your life, and the chance of having more serious
problems in the future.
Some LGTBI young people find it especially hard to ask for help,
perhaps because of discrimination by health professionals in the
past, worries about privacy, or difficulty talking to strangers
about sexuality or gender identity. It's important to find someone
you trust and feel comfortable with. Remember that your local
doctor (general practitioner - GP) and other health professionals
are knowledgeable about LGTBI issues, and experienced in working
with LGTBI young people.
Start with your local community health centre or headspace centre.
A trusted friend, teacher or family member might also be able to
recommend someone. It can take time to find the health professional
who is right for you, so don't give up if you don't find the right
person straight away. Remember that you don't have to discuss your
sexuality if you don't feel comfortable or safe.
You can take some action to help yourself stay mentally healthy
and reduce the risk of developing mental health problems. Here are
some strategies to use when you're feeling stressed out or having a
- Eat well
- Get enough sleep
- Spend time with people you trust and who make you feel good
- Talk to people
- Avoid using alcohol and other drugs
- Find time for enjoyable activities in your day
- Get help early if things aren't improving
For more information you can visit Rainbow Network at rainbownetwork.net.au