3.6 Sexuality: Mental Health

Sexuality, gender identity and intersex status do not inherently cause mental health problems. However, discrimination, prejudice and societal pressures associated with being LGBTIQ can interfere with well-being and mental health. Not everyone who is LGBTIQ struggles with their mental health, some of the common experiences LGBTIQ individuals face are:

  •       Feeling different from other people
  •       Feeling pressure to deny or change their sexuality or gender
  •       Worries about ‘coming out’ to friends and family members
  •       Fears about ‘being outed’ in social and clinical settings
  •       Shame surrounding intersex traits

When this is compounded by another minority status like race, socioeconomic background or disability, the impact of minority stress on the mental health of LGBTIQ can be significant. Consider the following scenario:

Jules Hawkins is a 22-year-old Aboriginal woman who has presented complaining of poor sleep.”

Sometimes, clinicians can make assumptions about a person’s sexual practices.  Several reports have shown that when health professionals discriminate or impose their prejudices on their patients, the quality of their healthcare suffers. Many LGBTIQ patients have experienced discrimination at some stage in their lives and may be highly sensitive to discrimination or judgement from healthcare professionals. As such, clinical settings must be spaces where LGBTIQ individuals feel safe to disclose their sexuality without fear of judgement.

In the following section, we’ll develop clinical skills with lesbian, gay and bisexual patients.

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