Recent studies have been flowering up telling tales of LGBTQ teens being more at risk for suicidal tendencies, which statistically is true. Looking at the 2015 National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey in the United States, the researchers found that 40% of high school students who identified as “sexual minorities” (basically any sexuality that isn’t heterosexual) were seriously considering suicide. Then another study, done by The Williams Institute, found that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals were 10-20% more likely to attempt suicide than lesbian, gay or bisexual people all together! To say this is a serious issue, would be an understatement.
But, What Can We Do?
I’m glad you asked! If you are a member of the LGBTQ, there’s a plethora of ways to address any issue you might be facing, and anyone who is a loved one or someone you care about can be there for you in your times of need. Below are some of the most effective, and safe ways to deal with all of life’s biggest bumps on your journey to a happier, more fulfilling life!
Therapy: Talking Helps!
As someone who is majoring in psychology and hoping to become a therapist specially catering to LGBTQ youth, it’s no surprise that I believe therapy is one of the most effective ways of keeping your mental health strong and hearty! But, I’m certainly not the only one who believes this to be true. Brownawell and Kelley, both who are from the American Psychological Association, say within their article that an effective therapist works better for the long term, is more enduring than medication, is more cost effective and leads to fewer relapses of anxiety and depression than medication used alone! Now, many people might say that therapy is pointless or isn’t for them, but what those people might not realize is that finding the right therapist takes time, and that every therapist specializes in certain areas. For example, if you know that you are struggling with gender dysphoria and anxiety, it wouldn’t be beneficial to you to go to a therapist who specializes in treating clients with bipolar, depression and eating disorders in adults. Instead, I would highly recommend looking for a licensed gender therapist to help you work through your gender dysphoria and anxiety. How therapy generally works is identifying your issues such as, correcting problematic thinking patterns, aiding you in finding healthy coping skills and gaining better interpersonal skills. Remember, that every therapist is different, and specializes in different subjects, always make sure to know what your therapist specializes in, so you know that you are getting the best care possible!
Medication: What Does It Do?
In conjunction with therapy, medication can be extremely effective to battling even the worst of your demons! The benefits of medication are wonderful, as they can bring back life to where it had been lost. The complete list of benefits of medication can vary depending on the type of medication, how much you are taking, and how it affects you since everyone is affected by medication in a different way. For example, if you are suffering from depression, medication can help you regain energy, help you feel more motivated, aid in stabilizing mood, and ultimately, feel like more of yourself again! Who wouldn’t want that? Medication is also really beneficial for almost any kind of mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, and pretty much any other kind of mental illness you might be struggling with. This is extremely helpful with those who suffer more severe, debilitating illnesses since medication can target specific problems someone might be struggling with. However, as wonderful as medication does seem, it does have its drawbacks:
- Takes time to figure out which medication and dosage helps
- Medication can worsen symptoms or cause new symptoms to arise
- Can be addictive, almost all medication has some type of withdrawal
- Can be costly
But, don’t let the negatives get in the way of your treatment! I personally started taking medication when I was about 15 years old for my depression and anxiety, and many of my friends and family also take some kind of medication. Just as we use medicine to help with recovering our body, we can use medication to help recovery of the mind.
Treat Yo’ Self: Self-Care Tips!
We have all had that moment when you think to yourself:
“I don’t really need this, maybe I’ll just treat myself!”
Whether it be the last cupcake, a new pair of shoes, or even a nice, hot bubble bath, self-care is all about taking care of ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally. The importance of self-care is choosing to do something for yourself that is going to have a positive impact on either your mental, physical, or emotional health. Many people mistake self-care to be over indulging on sweets, spending money, drugs (yes, alcohol counts as a drug), or sleeping, but that isn’t what self-care is. The key to self-care is moderation! What self-care really is, is allowing yourself to restore your health (whether it be mental, emotional, or physical) in a safe, positive, and harmless way. Below are some of my favorite self-care activities:
- Taking a relaxing, hot bath
- Journaling my thoughts and feelings
- Doing a coloring page
- Listening to upbeat music to dance to (even though I’m no good at dancing!)
- Taking a nice, 20-minute nap
- Drinking a hot drink
- Fixing up one of my favorite snacks
- Cleaning my room
- Working out
Oh, but the list could go on and on! The beautiful thing about self-care, is that it can be as simple as taking a shower or drinking water. There’s endless ways to provide yourself with self-care, and every situation calls for a different set of self-care options. If you are feeling anxious, I highly recommend drinking a hot drink, cuddling up in a heap of blankets, or playing video games to help your mind drift into another world. But if you are feeling depressed, I would recommend trying and get out of the house, take a walk, or creating something new. Self-care can also be more “tough love”. What I mean by that, is sometimes we use the excuse that we are utilizing self-care techniques (take for example, sleeping) but instead of this activity restoring your mental, physical or emotional health, your “self-care” is actually harming you. A great example is the student: Imagine you are in school, and in one week, you have a really important exam. You are stressed and running thin on energy, sleep and the will power to study. What you shouldn’t do is play video games, sleep and eat food instead of studying all week. Instead, you could switch between studying and taking reasonable breaks in between study sessions to maximize studying and minimize stress. After all, self-care is more than just doing what feels good, it’s about knowing what you need, when you need it, and how much is the right amount for you.
To Top Things Off…
After it is all said and done, there are ways to stay happy, healthy and fulfilled while being a part of the LGBT community. We have covered the benefits of therapy, medication and self-care, which are the top three most effective ways of staying mentally strong and sound. There is never any shame in getting help when you need it, in fact, many people seek therapy or medication when they are struggling. Both therapy and medication have helped people all over the world and will soon help you too! If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, or even just need someone to talk to, please call the 24-Hour Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Trevor Project 24-Hour Hotline at 1-866-488-7386. Remember, you are irreplaceable!
~ Lance Klemple
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