Sexuality and mental wellbeing
- Who you’re attracted to is a very personal thing, and is different for everyone. No matter who you are attracted or not attracted to, you’re not alone.
- It’s normal to think about and experiment with your sexuality. You don’t have to fit under a label if you don’t feel comfortable.
- Facing discrimination because of your sexuality can have a huge impact on how you feel and your mental health.
- LGBTQ+ people can be more at risk from suicide because of the stigma and discrimination they face. If you’re struggling, you can chat to CALM here .
When we talk about sexuality we’re talking about who or what type of person we find attractive. Depending on what culture you are from and how you were brought up, you might have been expected to be heterosexual – that’s being sexually attracted to the opposite sex. However,
there are lots of different ways to sexually identify – you may not even want to identify at all, and that’s fine.
What does LGBTQ+ mean?
LGBTQ+ is a way to refer to the many different sexualities and gender expressions that exist. It stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. The + sign is a nod to the fact that sexuality or gender is not always linear. You may identify as none of the above terms, or your sexuality might change as you grow or change.
If you would like to read more about exploring your sexuality you can do so here.
Why does sexuality affect mental health?
Lots of things can impact our mental health, including where we’re from, our background and our current life circumstances – as well as all of the stuff we do and go through in everyday life, so it makes sense that your sexuality, and people’s responses to it, can also affect how you feel.
The only person your sexuality should matter to is you. Unfortunately, some people don’t see it that way, and discrimination based on someone’s sexuality is not uncommon. You might feel that you have to hide or mute elements of who you are, or perhaps you constantly have to explain your life decisions to people you barely know.
LGBTQ+ people can face a huge amount of pressure, which can have an impact on mental health. If you are struggling, you can always talk to the CALM helpline, or specialist LGBTQ+ organisations including https://switchboard.lgbt/ , and https://www.mindout.org.uk/ .
You may feel some of the following:
- Like a liar or a fraud
- Like you can’t be yourself
- Worried or anxious about the future
- Experience panic attacks
- Like giving up
- Want to shut yourself away or avoid certain places like work or school
You do not have to disclose your sexuality to anyone if you don’t want to.
No one has a say in your sexuality except you. Sometimes that means relationships with friends and family who have different views can be tough. You can find support here.
Remember that LGBTQ+ rights are protected by law.
Where can I find help?
- Talk to CALM from 5pm to midnight everyday. Our professional helpline workers are there to talk and to help you find ways to move forward. Calls and webchats are free, anonymous, non-judgemental and confidential.
- Outside of these hours, calls the Samaritans on 116 123
- Stonewall provides information and support for LGBT communities and their allies. Find out more here.
- The LGBT Foundation also provide support and advice for anyone who wants support with their sexuality. Find out more here
Struggling with your mental health because of your sexuality? Here’s some steps you can take:
Talk to someone
Opening up about what you’re experiencing is a good way to lighten the load or lessen the burden you’re feeling. You shouldn’t feel ashamed of how you’re feeling – it’s out of your control and a reflection of something much bigger than yourself. Sharing how you feel with someone who understands you or has similar experiences can help to make you feel less alone.
Speak to your GP or medical professional if your mental health concerns are taking over your life.
If you’re struggling to get on with your life as a result of your mental wellbeing you should talk to someone about how you’re feeling. You can find out more about mental health issues and conditions here.
Find support groups and communities to share your experience
It can be tough to talk to someone about your sexuality if they have no understanding of what it feels like to go through it. Join a support group in real life or online can provide a place to let off steam, discuss your feelings in a safe space, and feel validated and listened to.
While you may feel that discrimination and judgement based on your sexuality is all around us, it is illegal or against the rules in most places and scenarios. Learning about your rights can help you feel more empowered when faced with injustice. You can also join groups who campaign for change, which is another way to take back control and feel better about what you’ve been through. Find out more about your rights here.
It’s not your job to fix homophobia
If things feel overwhelming, remember it’s not up to you to fix homophobia. Discrimination of LGBTQ+ people is a problem that spans generations, classes, cultures, countries, and even continents. You are not responsible for educating or fixing every discriminatory or offensive thing you see, and trying to would be a huge burden. It’s our collective responsibility as a society to build an equal society, but right now, it’s important that you look after yourself.
Talking about how you’re feeling
It can be difficult to talk about your sexuality and mental health with your friends, family or a medical professional. Here’s some ways you can start a conversation around how you’re feeling:
“I need to talk to you about how I’m feeling. I experienced homophobic abuse and I can’t stop thinking about it ”
“I need to talk – I’ve been struggling with my mental health because i’m questioning my sexuality, and I’ve been feeling very anxious.”
“You might have noticed i’ve not been around so much lately. I’ve been finding things difficult, and think I need some help.”
You’re not alone
“Talking about my own mental health has been something that has helped me and I know from tweets, messages and people sticking around after the show, it has helped others too. After meeting the CALM team I knew it was something I wanted to be part of and as a LGBT person (where suicide and self harm rates are higher than average) I am very excited to be involved.”Suzi Ruffell
Header illustration by Thomas Hedger
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- CALM-ing out at Pride 2018
Worried about someone? Find information and advice for someone you care about here.