Pride month and mental health: we’ve achieved a lot but there’s a long way to go

By Sarah Kline, CEO and co-founder, United for Global Mental Health

As Pride month comes to a close, we’re reflecting on how far societies in at least some countries have come in marking Pride and celebrating the contribution of the LGBTQI+ community across the world.

In our work, and this month in particular, we are reminded of how far we all still have to go. Currently, according to the BBC Website, 69 countries still treat same-sex acts as a criminal offence. And on top of that, study after study reports, that even in areas where it is legal, members of the LGBTQI+ community suffer poorer mental health than the general population.

At UnitedGMH, we know mental health is a deeply complex, multifaceted issue; one that is influenced as much by culture, socio-economics and ethnicity as personal circumstances. This is especially true when speaking of the unique challenges faced by those in the LGBTQI+ community. No community is a monolith and the answer can never be that one size fits all.

Which is why we have been delighted to work with advocates in the field, helping bring support and attention to LGBTQI+ people around the world, in their contexts, trying to answer their needs on their terms. We highlighted these issues this week in the webinar on stigma and discrimination and earlier in the year within the webinar we organised on the effects of conversion therapy on mental health around the world.

Some of those partners that we have worked to promote include:

  • In India, the Mariwala Health Initiative, (Ketki Ranade, Shruti Chakravarty, Pooja Nair, Gauri Shringarpure) have created a resource book for mental health practitioners to complement The Queer Affirmative Counselling Practice (QACP) course to respond to the specific needs and challenges of the LGBTQI+ community.
  • Outright International, a longstanding partner of UnitedGMH in advocacy worldwide, continues to draw attention to the need to ban conversion therapy, address the plight of LGBTQI+ refugees, and publish original research e.g. on the mental health stressors for LGBTIQ+ activists working on gender-based violence in Asia.
  • Dr Caitlin Ryan, who helps spearhead the Family Acceptance Project, which is a model of family-related care to promote the well-being of LGBTQI+ adolescents and their families with resources available in multiple languages.

These are all practical, and evidence-based initiatives to improve mental health provision in areas that have been historically understudied, and quite frankly, financially overlooked. And we have many more examples we can share. Building a body of evidence, with solutions-based initiatives like these is a step to improving global quality of practice for LGBTQI+ people everywhere.

So, this Pride month, as we celebrate what has been achieved, it is worth taking stock of the work that is still being done to address stigma and discrimination, end harmful practices and promote access to mental health services for all. No one should be denied the help they need because of access, geography, circumstance or quite simply who they are. We believe good mental health is a right, but there is still a way to go.

With that in mind, I urge you to continue to raise awareness of the burden of mental health conditions within LGBTQI+ populations; to continue to combat the stigma and discrimination faced by these groups that too often serves as a barrier to accessing services; and to promote and share the voices of lived experience and of the proven solutions that have made a difference to the lives of so many.