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Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Communities and Mental Health

Mental Health America works nationally and locally to raise awareness about mental health and ensures that those at-risk for mental illnesses and related disorders receive proper, timely and effective treatment. MHA incorporates culturally competent strategies to ensure that it is effectively addressing the treatment and psychosocial needs of consumers and families with diverse values, beliefs, sexual orientations and backgrounds that vary by race, ethnicity and/or language.


Demographics/Societal Issues

  • Among all U.S. adults aged 18 and over, 96.6% identify as straight, 1.6% as gay or lesbian, 0.7% as bisexual, and the remaining 1.1% as “something else.” [1]
  • There appears to be no difference between the number of women and men that identify as lesbian or gay. However, there are more transgender women (0.9%) than transgender men (0.4%). [1]
  • Research suggests that LGBT individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of their civil and human rights. Discrimination against LGBT persons has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide. [2]
  • Personal, family, and social acceptance of sexual orientation and gender identity affects the mental health and personal safety of LGBT individuals. [2] [1]


The following statistics were taken from a March 17, 2003 Witeck-Combs Communications/ Harris Interactive national survey on health care:

  • Eleven percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adults said they are worried about depression/anxiety as a personal health risk, compared to 6 percent of heterosexuals.
  • Twenty-four percent o f LGBT adults said they have deliberately withheld their sexual practices from their doctor or other health care professional.
  • When choosing a doctor or health care professional, as many LGBT adults say it is important to them that a provider is known to be “gay-friendly” (25 percent) as it is to have that provider covered by their health insurance plan (24 percent).


  • As compared to people that identify as straight, LGBT individuals are 3 times more likely to experience a mental health condition. [3]
  • LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts, and engage in self-harm, as compared to youths that are straight. [3]
  • 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation. [3]
  • An estimated 20-30% of LGBT individuals abuse substances, compared to about 9% of the general population. 25% of LGBT individuals abuse alcohol, compared to 5-10% of the general population. [3]
  • 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse. [4]

Treatment Issues

The following statistics were taken from the “Mental Health and Mental Disorders” section of  Healthy People 2010 Companion Document for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Health published by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the National Coalition for LGBT Health in 2001:

  • In mental health care, stigma, lack of cultural sensitivity and unconscious and conscious reluctance to address sexuality all may hamper effectiveness of care. Treatments that rely on group therapies and support groups are also vulnerable to the effects of discrimination, with participants often forming a justifiable fear that full disclosure of personal details may adversely affect their standing in the group or health care setting.
  • LGBT people report discriminatory treatment following disclosure of sexual orientation in paramedical and auxiliary care settings, including nursing homes, domestic violence centers and senior centers.


  • In a survey of LGB people, more than half of all respondents reported that they have faced cases of providers denying care, using harsh language, or blaming the patient’s sexual orientation or gender identity as the cause for an illness. Fear of discrimination may lead some people to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity from providers or avoid seeking care altogether. [4]
  • In 2011, the Joint Commission, an independent non-profit national organization that accredits and certifies more than 20,000 health care organizations and programs in the U.S., began to require that hospitals prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in order to be accredited. [4]

Educational Materials

MHA has developed unique materials for the LGBT audience:


Fact Sheets

Partnerships and Resources


[1] Ward, B. W., Dahlhamer, J. M., Galinsky, A. M., & Joestl, S. S. (2014). Sexual orientation and health among U.S. adults: National health interview survey, 2013. National Health Statistics Report, 77. Retrieved from

[2] Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2016). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health. Retrieved from

[3] National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2016). LGBTQ. Retrieved from

 [4] Kates, J., Ranji, U., Beamesderfer, A., Salganicoff, A., & Dawson, L. (2016). Health and access to care and coverage for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in the U.S. Retrieved from

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