Deep Bench: Mental illness and the double stigma surrounding the LGBTQ community

WAUSAU, Wis. (WZAW) -- If you live with a mental health condition and identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer and/or questioning, making your mental well-being a priority is so important. While not everyone in the LGBTQ community experiences the same things, it's common to be discriminated against, harassed or bullied and even rejected by your own family.

Clinical social worker, Lee Shipway, discusses the double stigma of those identifying as LGBTQ and mental illness (WZAW photo)

According to data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, LGB adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition, LGBTQ people are at a higher risk than the general population for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, high school students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers, and 48% of all transgender adults report that they have considered suicide in the past 12 months, compared to 4% of the overall U.S. population.

Lee Shipway, a clinical social worker and executive director of Peaceful Solutions Counseling, joined the Deep Bench on Wednesday. She said because that’s so common, it can lead to anxiety and depression.

“It has a great impact on this community, because when someone is feeling suicidal or depressed, they’re not able to parent their children well, they’re not able to go to their jobs, they’re not functioning well. And that doesn’t just impact that one person, that impacts the entire community,” Shipway explained.

Studies have shown that mental illness is becoming more commonplace among young people/ Shipway said the pressures of what children area already facing at a young age gets more elevated when you identify as LGBTQ.

“In adolescence, its’ important for kids to fit in with one another. So when they feel like no one is supporting them, that they’re not believed in, that people don’t value them, that is just like the world crashing in.”

While acceptance doesn’t go for everyone in the community, Shipway said we have come a long way, but still have a long way to go. To get to a better place, she said there needs to be code of acceptance and inclusion.

“Look for what the commonalities are between human beings instead of focusing on what the differences are.”