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Houston expert explains why the LGBTQ community needs mental healthcare now more than ever

HOUSTON – This year has been an emotional rollercoaster to say the least. At the halfway mark, many agree that having good mental health is vital to get through the rest of it. In celebration of Pride month, we want to stress the need for self care especially in the LGBTQ community. Menninger 360 Program Director and LCSW Matt Estey shares why mental health in the LGBTQ community is so important, especially with ongoing concerns of COVID-19 and social unrest.

“About 40% of folks who identify as LGBTQ will say they’ve experienced mental illness in the last year compared to 20% in the general population” said Estey.

According to Estey, in addition to members of the LGBTQ community being more likely to experience mental illness, LGBTQ youth have a higher risk of having suicidal thoughts.

“They are four times more likely to report having suicidal thoughts, attempt suicide or exhibit self injury,” said Estey. “Their school-based stressors have nothing to do with academics.”

Per Estey, the COVID-19 pandemic can compound many of these stressors as well, as some LGBTQ youth may be forced to quarantine with families that do not accept them, resulting in daily tension or even homelessness.

Ongoing social unrest regarding racism also strongly resonates with many members of the LGBTQ community, as Pride month commemorates the Stonewall Riots, which took place in New York City in June 1969 and was led by two transgender women of color.

All this comes around the same time as two major policies regarding LGBTQ rights have made national headlines. Last week, a Supreme Court decision ruled that workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity violates federal civil rights law. In the week preceding this decision, the Trump administration moved to rollback healthcare protections for transgender patients.

FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2019, file photo, supporters of LGBTQ rights hold placards in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. The Supreme Court has ruled that a landmark civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in employment. It's a resounding victory for LGBT rights from a conservative court. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2019, file photo, supporters of LGBTQ rights hold placards in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. The Supreme Court has ruled that a landmark civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in employment. It's a resounding victory for LGBT rights from a conservative court. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that there’s still significant disparities,” said Estey. “But I think the fact that we are even raising these questions and talking about that does signify that there’s been real progress.”

For the full interview, watch the video above. To connect with Matt Estey, click here.

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