Mental Health in Queer, Trans and Two-Spirit Communities:
Why Are We More Greatly Impacted?
By Kole Lowerence, Counselling Coordinator at QMUNITY
Queer, Trans, and Two-Spirit folks are strong and resilient. As many of us know, mental health challenges impact many folks from these and other communities. Unjustly, mental health challenges are even more prevalent in 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, and this is likely due to several important reasons. Understanding why can lend therapists insights on how best to support these communities and even offer guidance to community agencies and government in how to best financially support solutions to combat this trend.
One of the key factors can be explained by a phenomenon known as minority stress theory. This theory refers to the additional stress that individuals from underserved communities experience as a result of their minority status– in this case, queer, trans and Two-Spirit individuals. These groups face a significant amount of oppression due to prejudice, discrimination, and victimization based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and cultural identity. This oppression can take a toll on mental health and lead to higher rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. The applications of minority stress theory are very important to understand, which we will dive deeper into, below.
One application is the lack of acceptance and support that many queer, trans and Two-Spirit individuals face. Many folks from these communities experience rejection from their un-chosen families, friends, and all throughout society, in work, school and peer settings. These experiences may all negatively impact their self-esteem and sense of belonging. This can lead especially to feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can have a significant impact on one’s mental health.
Access to mental health care is another issue that affects queer, trans and Two-Spirit communities. Queer and trans individuals may face barriers in accessing mental health services, a lack of culturally-competent providers or therapists with queer-lived experience, as well as financial barriers. They may also fear discrimination or judgment from mental health providers, which can prevent them from seeking the care they need.
Internalized stigma is another factor that contributes to higher rates of mental health challenges in the queer and trans community. Queer and trans individuals may internalize negative societal attitudes and beliefs towards their identity, leading to feelings of shame, guilt, and low self-worth. Many counsellors report that clients often internalize their homophobia/transphobia in day-to-day interactions and unlearning their self-directed prejudices may often take months or years. This internalized stigma, especially over time, can have a detrimental impact on mental health and well-being.
Finally, the historical and ongoing trauma that queer, trans and Two-Spirit individuals have faced also plays a role in higher rates of mental health challenges. Individuals from these communities have a history of facing oppression– medical abuses, conversion therapy, and exclusion from being able to marry, being only a few examples. All too often, clients accessing the counselling program have recently accepted something like their sexuality or other identity factor and have faced backlash from their family or community for just showing them who they truly are. This trauma can have lasting effects on mental health, leading to an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.
Ultimately, there are likely multiple factors contributing to the higher rates of mental health challenges in the queer, trans, and Two-Spirit communities, including minority stress, lack of acceptance, access to care, internalized stigma, and historical and ongoing trauma. It’s important to address these issues in order to support the mental health and well-being of queer and trans individuals.
If you are experiencing mental health related challenges and are a part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, please check out QMUNITY’s Counselling at the webpage.