Showing posts with label sexual orientation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sexual orientation. Show all posts

Monday, August 19, 2013

THE DIVIDE: Transgender Mental Health Disparities - why they exist & what we can do…

By Anthony Dobner, Medical Student
Reviewed by Claudia Reardon, M.D.

The Basics…
A transgender individual is someone with the desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex. This can be accompanied by the wish to make his or her body as congruent as possible with the preferred sex. A transsexual individual is someone who has taken measures, through surgery or hormone therapy, to achieve their desire of living and being accepted as a member of the opposite sex. In general, transgender individuals prefer to be addressed using pronouns and other culture norms that are congruent with their preferred gender identity.

Mental Health Issues Affecting Transgender Individuals…
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals (LGBT) in general are 2-3 times more likely than the general population to suffer from anxiety and depression. This is probably because anyone who experiences discrimination is more likely to have anxiety or depression.

Almost half of transgender individuals report having attempted suicide. Transgender individuals are also more likely to suffer from substance abuse compared to the general population. Interestingly, transgender individuals who are accepted by their families are less likely to abuse substances. Also, transgender individuals who undertake hormone therapy are less likely to report depressed mood.

Many LGBT individuals experience unintentional discrimination from health care professionals. This may be because they use behavior and language that make assumptions about sexuality. Examples of this include assuming a lesbian or transgender woman does not need to receive education on condoms because she will “never have to worry about getting pregnant.” Research indicates that other barriers include:

  • Homophobia
  • Assumptions of heterosexuality (or homosexuality in transgender individuals)
  • Real or perceived lack of confidentiality
  • Lack of training
  • Insurance policies and laws that create loopholes for employers that do not provide coverage to domestic partners.
5 Tips for Overcoming Disparities & Receiving Quality Health Care...
SEEK friends and allies who love and accept you for who you are no matter what. Research shows that having a strong support system decreases depression and suicidal ideation.

ASK friends and allies what resources are available in your community. Some communities have LGBT-specific clinics. Smaller communities may not have these services, but there may be individual clinicians who have experience working with LGBT patients.
TALK to your doctor! He or she should care about you and want you to be happy and healthy but may not know the best way to address your unique needs. Don’t be afraid to bring up the issue if they don’t. Refer them to this excellent resource for clinicians who want to improve the accessibility of their clinics for transgender individuals.
ENCOURAGE your doctor to use gender neutral language during your visit, and on surveys, signs, and intake forms.
SUPPORT efforts in your community to pass laws that change language in insurance policies that make it difficult for LGBT individuals to receive quality care.

For more information, check out this great resource for transgender individuals on a variety of health care issues.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Supporting Gay Youth as a Way to Prevent Suicide

By Tristan Gorrindo, MD

Coming out of the closet is one of the hardest things that a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person will do.

“Coming out,” is the process of revealing to friends, parents, family members, and acquaintances that he or she is gay. It is more that just a simple act or decision to announce that a person is gay, but rather a process that unfolds overtime, usually in small steps. For many people, it involves telling one person, then a group of friends or family members, then classmates or co-workers, and finally the world at large. But for each person, the journey is different and often filled with emotional ups and downs.

Recent events in the national media have highlighted the issues surrounding coming out and youth suicide. By some estimates, as many as nine gay youth died by suicide since September 1, 2010. Government officials and celebrities have publicly referred to this as a national crisis.

Many population scientists have tried to understand why gay teens are at such high risk for suicide -- by some estimates 7 times the national average for their age. And although there are many possible contributors to what might make a gay teen suicidal, we must first remember that all teens, gay and straight alike, are struggling with basic questions about self-identity.

A friend of mine once described being a teenager is like, “being at a costume ball where the costumes and guests are constantly changing.” As part of normal teenage development, teens are “trying on” different roles, different groups of friends, and even different kinds of dress. It is a time when teens are first experimenting with the idea of romantic relationships and at the same time trying to separate from their parents. Gay teens have the added burden of sorting out the confusing, often negative messages from the culture about what it means to be gay. When these ingredients mix -- unsure sense of self-identify, novice experience with romance, trying to separate from one’s parents, and fear of what it means to be gay -- gay teens run the risk of feeling quite isolated and alone.

Regardless of one’s personal views of homosexuality, I think we can all agree on the importance of supporting our youth during difficult times. The American Psychiatric Association is committed to reducing the stigma around homosexuality and to promoting the psychological health of gay, straight, and bisexual individuals.

We owe it to our teens to make sure that they know that coming out is not a process that they have to go through alone. A wide variety of resources exist, from grass-roots YouTube videos which offer gay teens hope, as in The Make It Better Project, to 24-hour suicide hotline for gay teens offered through The Trevor Project. Additionally, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts. The Healthy Minds website is a source of clear factual information on sexual orientation. And let us not forget the parents that may also be struggling with how to help their gay child; for them there is support and advice offered through PFLAG.