Creating Safe Spaces for LGBTQIA+ Mental Health

Despite our nation's reputation as the friendliest to the LGBTQIA+ community in Southeast Asia, pressing issues still persist. Challenges such as a lack of inclusiveness and ongoing discrimination—including harassment, insufficient medical advice, and denial of health services—continue to impact our friends in the community. These realities not only harm those directly affected but also affect us as their allies.

These challenges can deeply affect a person's well-being and how they live their life. Studies show that LGBTQIA+ individuals face higher risks of mental health issues, such as self-harm thoughts and attempts, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and stress, due to stigma, discrimination, and harassment. As allies, it's crucial that we support and advocate for our LGBTQIA+ friends' access to inclusive mental health support and medical care.

Mental health issues can affect anyone, but not equally. As members of the LGBTQIA+ community, we may begin caring for ourselves by:

1. Connecting with other people.

It may feel as if we are alone in our concerns and, maybe, in the unfairness that is occurring in our community. It's important that you acknowledge that you're not alone. Friends who have become family, as well as many LGBTQIA+ organizations, are always available to offer support.

2. Define and set your boundaries. 

It's understandable that we want to speak out and educate others about our rights. The reality is that there are people who are determined to misunderstand us. We respect you for speaking up, but it's fine if you want to take a break and avoid uncomfortable events and conversations.

Unplugging from social media or online media outlets is also an excellent strategy to set a boundary between yourself and continually absorbing unpleasant news about the LGBTQIA+ community. Yes, knowing the most recent information about your surroundings is necessary, but if it makes you uncomfortable or worried, it is also OK to take some time away from them.

3. Take good care of your physical health.

It's easy to forget about our good habits when we're anxious or facing a challenge, but keep in mind that caring for your physical health can have an impact on your mental health. A quick workout and tweaking your diet (food and drinks) will help you feel better.

4. Find and engage in a creative outlet.

Our ideas and emotions may be difficult to explain in words. Finding a creative outlet that will allow you to process and release any difficult emotions you may be experiencing. Knitting, writing, watercolor painting, cooking, dancing, playing an instrument, and gardening are all terrific hobbies to consider.

5. Consult with a professional.

As previously said, you do not have to confront the challenges of identifying as LGBTQIA+ alone. It's important to recognize and remind people that help is available. You can contact Empath if you require assistance.

If you, our reader, are curious about how to help your LGBTQIA+ friends and relatives, here are some ways we can show support to them:

1. Remember to always show respect for their identities and experiences.  

Most, if not all, of our community's friends may have had negative experiences when they showed up as themselves. It is critical that we respect them and treat them as normal. Our identity should not influence how we interact with those around us.

2. Educate yourself about LGBTQIA+ issues and needs.

Learning and understanding the various LGBTQIA+ issues and misconceptions is a positive step that we, as allies, can take in supporting our loved ones who identify as LGBTQIA+. It is vital to remember that we cannot always rely on our friends to educate us on these issues. Furthermore, we can learn about how these difficulties may affect their mental health.

This step can help us recognize and overcome our biases, as well as push conversations about discrimination, misconceptions, and stigmas.

3. Provide them with a safe environment.

Creating and maintaining a safe space for our LGBTQIA+ peers is critical as they fight for inclusion and equality in the community. Avoid making assumptions about their journey or asking intrusive questions.  

If a friend or family member opens up to you, offer a listening ear; if they are still not ready, let them know you are there for them whenever they need you.

4. Support them if they need to seek professional help.  

We, as allies, can lend a helping hand to friends or family members who want to seek professional help by reminding them that it is okay to ask for it. We can offer to accompany them to their appointment or assist them in finding mental health services, both of which are appropriate things to do.  

Remember to check-in with yourself and make time to care for yourself while helping others.

Empath believes in the power of community and support. No matter who we are, we must continue to foster a safe, inclusive, and loving environment for all people, embracing every identity with respect and compassion. Together, we can make a profound impact on the mental well-being of our LGBTQIA+ friends and family.

References:

  • Alibudbud, R. (2023). Gender in Climate Change: Safeguarding LGBTQ+ Mental Health in the Philippine Climate Change Response From a Minority Stress Perspective. Journal of Preventive Medicine & Public Health, 196-199.
  • Collins, D. (2022, June 15). 6 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health as an LGBTQ+ Individual. Retrieved from Amazon One Medical: https://www.onemedical.com/blog/healthy-living/6-ways-protect-your-mental-health-lgbtq-individual/
  • Guiao, M. A. (2023, June 4). 10 Local LGBT+ Organizations to Support This Pride Month (and the Rest of the Year). Retrieved from Spot PH: https://www.spot.ph/newsfeatures/culture/105038/lgbt-organizations-to-support-in-the-philippines-a5229-20230604-lfrm
  • Guzman, C. d. (2023, June 30). Southeast Asia’s Most Gay-Friendly Country Still Has No Law Against LGBT Discrimination. Retrieved from Time: https://time.com/6290762/philippines-pride-lgbt-discrimination-sogie-equality-bill/
  • LGBTQ+, Patients and Families, Public awareness. (2023, June 26). Five Ways to Support LGBTQ+ Mental Health. Retrieved from American Psychiatric Association: https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/five-ways-to-support-lgbtq-mental-health
  • LGBTQIA+ people’s mental health. (2024, June 1). Retrieved from Mental Health UK: https://mentalhealth-uk.org/lgbtqia-mental-health/
  • Supporting someone who is LGBTQIA+. (2024, June 2). Retrieved from Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/lgbtqia-mental-health/supporting-someone-who-is-lgbtqia/

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