[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations, now materialising in major towns and cities all over the country throughout the summer, are now fundamental social events. Thousands come together to celebrate the diversity and unity of the community, and yet, one topic commonly remains subject to either silence or stigma: mental health.
World Mental Health Day, which took place on the 10th October, elevates the need for society to reduce the stigma towards mental health. It often results in a social media phenomenon of sorts, in which people share their stories. This is one of the many benefits of the internet: days like these encourage the dialogue on mental health which is vitally needed. Mental health is remains a social stigma: LGBTQ+ mental health even more so. Society needs to begin conversations on mental distress and mental illness, and events such as World Mental Health Day undoubtedly further this cause.
It is true that LGBTQ+ people suffer a higher rate of mental distress. Research conducted by Stonewall in 2014 reports that fifty-two percent of young LGBTQ+ individuals have either self-harmed or been plagued by mental distress. With forty-five percent of people aged sixteen to twenty-five identifying as something other than heterosexual, it is clear that this problem needs to be addressed.
Owen Jones, Guardian columnist and political commentator, has highlighted that gay and bisexual men face a new struggle: the struggle with mental health problems. As a whole, the male population typically struggle to voice their feelings: this is the result of a longstanding patriarchal society in which men are demonised or belittled for speaking about their emotions. The terms “man up” and “boys don’t cry” facilitate this perception that men should maintain their “masculine” status and bottle up their emotions. This “masculinity” problem remains prevalent for gay and bisexual men as well as for heterosexual men.
Too often, drug and alcohol abuse accompany poor mental health: in the LGBTQ+ community, substance abuse is all too common. Drugs are prevalent in queer spaces, particularly in male gay bars. Those who have struggled to come to terms with their sexuality or gender identity might turn to substance abuse: drug use amongst gay men, lesbians and bisexuals is seven times higher than that of the general population.
Furthermore, cuts to mental health services and LGBTQ+ support systems have made it much harder for those who are struggling to access help: between 2015 and 2016, forty percent of mental health services experienced Tory cuts. Further, twenty-six percent of LGBTQ+ services report that they have had to cut services as a result of funding restrictions.
In essence: the dialogue furthered by World Mental Health Day needs to be extended to the LGBTQ+ community. The stigma needs to be fought in every area of society: part of combating this is to encourage social unity and openness. Society, males, gay males, and bisexual males especially, need to be reminded that voicing personal struggles and emotions does not equal weakness. It equals bravery: so much bravery.