Research published on Jan. 9 by Stonewall Scotland found that seven in ten trans people have experienced depression in the last year. The LGBT In Scotland Health Report was conducted by the charity to highlight the health inequalities experienced by LGBT people. Previous research into mental health in the LGBT community has found that LGBT people are more likely to experience poor mental health. The increased likelihood of depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and alcohol and substance misuse, has been attributed to the experience of discrimination, isolation, and homophobia from loved ones and health care providers. But why is this? If it is a well-known fact that those in the LGBT community are more vulnerable to mental health issues, is there more that can be done?
The Health Report by Stonewall Scotland revealed some harrowing statistics. 49 percent of the LGBT people they surveyed said they had experienced depression in the last year. That shot up when the trans experience was excluded, with 72 percent saying they had dealt with depression in the last year. 52 percent of trans people had thought of taking their own life in the last year and 14 percent have been pressured to access services to question or change their gender identity. When they sought out help from health care professionals, 59 percent of trans respondents said they have experienced healthcare staff having a lack of understanding of specific trans health needs.
Euan took part in the study and said, “I have experienced repeated expression of prejudiced attitudes towards me by mental health service providers due to me being trans, some in NHS and some in non-NHS services. Repeatedly being needlessly outed as trans without my consent by NHS professionals to other NHS professionals despite being transitioned for over 15 years and having a Gender Recognition Certificate. And repeatedly being asked intrusive and completely irrelevant questions by NHS professionals about my transition and other aspects of being trans.”
The study found that 60 percent of LGBT people reported experiencing anxiety in the last year, including 77 percent of trans people. 75 percent of 18-24 year olds who identify as LGBT said they have gone through anxiety. 16 percent of trans people, and 23 percent of non-binary people, have experienced an eating disorder in the last year, compared to eight percent of all LGBT women and six per cent of all GBT men. Across many of the metrics and questions used in the study, trans individuals faced more barriers and problems. This is a massive issue, not just for the LGBT community, but for society as a whole.
Speaking about what more can be done Paul Twocock, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research at Stonewall said, “simply being lesbian, gay, bi or trans shouldn’t mean you’re at higher risk of experiencing poorer mental health or should have to expect unequal treatment from healthcare services in Britain today. Unfortunately, this report shows that for many, it still does.
“Despite some outstanding progress by committed individuals and institutions, we are still seeing a bleak picture of LGBT health – both mental and physical – in 2018.”
Healthcare services have a legal duty under the Equality Act 2010 to treat LGBT people fairly and without discrimination. However, the recent survey by Stonewall Scotland found one in eight LGBT people (13 percent) have received unequal treatment from healthcare staff because they are LGBT, and this rose to one in four trans people (26 percent). 41 percent of trans people said they have experienced inappropriate curiosity from healthcare staff with 24 percent saying they have experienced this over the last year. One of the most distressing statistics was that nine percent of people said they had been outed without their consent by healthcare staff in front of staff or patients and this figure rose to 28 percent for trans people.
Speaking to the Independent Dr Rohan Borschmann, psychologist at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia said, “reducing stigma and discrimination could, therefore, provide a pathway to primary prevention of mental disorders, by reducing the burden of disease, improving public health, and reducing health inequities."
It is so clear from the research conducted by Stonewall Scotland that mental health problems are experienced unequally by those in the LGBT community. If discrimination, hate, and isolation can make members of the LGBT community vulnerable, then medical frameworks need to be in place so people can get the help and attention they need without being stigmatised, outed, and discriminated against.