August 8-18th is the Pride Festival in Montreal (Festival Fierté Montréal). These 10 days will be filled with interesting and entertaining events in and out of the city and, as always, an amazing line-up of artists and activists working towards bringing awareness to LGBTQ+ issues and providing a place of love and celebration for LGBTQ+ folk from all over. While many people will be celebrating and enjoying themselves during these 10 days it is important to remember that LGBTQ+ folk experience discrimination, isolation, and violence that has a significant negative impact on mental health.
Statistics gathered from a 2016 review of research on mental health in LGBT youth reported that 10% of LGBT youth experience mood disorders, 25% experience anxiety disorders, and 8.3% suffer from substance use disorders (Russel & Fish, 2016). Suicide was reported as the leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 24. The numbers tend to increase as people get older. LGBT Adults also tend to have high rates of mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders as well as high incidence of suicidal ideation and attempts. These patterns seem to occur internationally.
What contributes to these experiences in LGBT people? According to this extensive review, the answer is, several. For one, a general lack of support in many institutions like schools, families, and religious communities limit their rights and protections, leaving them more vulnerable and compromises their mental health. Interpersonally, victimization and bullying that is specifically because on a person’s perceived or actual sexual identity, orientation, or expression exacerbates the effects of victimization on mental health. Although it seems that rates of bullying tends to decrease across adolescence into adulthood, this is less the case for LGBT people which leaves them vulnerable since they are experiencing psychological and physical distress for longer periods of time.
Knowing this, how can you be a good ally to those in the LGBT community, family members, or friends? There are a number of ways that others can be supportive, not just during Pride week but all year long.
Here are 10 things you can do (big and small) to support the community or someone you know:
1. Offer to listen.
2. Along with listening, be willing to talk.
3. Be open-minded.
4. Educate yourself. Learn about the range of sexualities and sexual identities in the LGBT spectrum.
5. Be inclusive by inviting LGBTQ friends to hang out with your friends or your family.
6. Other small gestures like hanging a pride flag or accompanying a friend to their first Pride parade.
7. Be aware of anti-LGBTQ comments online and from other people around you like friends or coworkers. They cause harm. Be open about letting people know that you find them offensive.
8. If a friend comes out to you. Keep that story safe. It’s their place to share that with others when they are ready.
9. Defend your LGBTQ friends from discrimination. Don’t be afraid to say something.
10. Get involved! Find out what organizations or groups exist in your city, volunteer for an LGBT organization or event. Ask how you can help.
Some LGBTQ+ Organizations in Montreal:
l’asterisk* Safe Space for LGBTQ+ Youth – https://www.lasterisk.com/
AlterHéroes – http://www.alterheros.com
Action Santé Transvesti(e)s et Transexuel(le)s de Québec (ASTTEQ) – http://www.astteq.org/
Fierté Montréal – https://fiertemtl.com/en/
Coalition des familles LGBT – https://www.familleslgbt.org
PFLAG – https://pflagcanada.ca/pflag-chapters/quebec/
1. Russel, S.T., Fish, J.N. (2016). Mental health in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. Annual review of clinical psychology, 12, 465-487.