116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
There are several important dialogues, movements and shifts happening now across the social landscape of our country. Many of these conversations are focused on the rights and freedoms of historically disenfranchised groups, including women, LGBTQ+, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and others. And perhaps now more than ever, both in numbers and in loudness of voice, people from all backgrounds are showing up in support of these important groups. From Pride parades to Black Lives Matter protests, women’s marches to rallies protecting Indigenous lands, people are coming together across cultures, races, ethnicities, religions, genders, sexualities and more in support of one another.
Unfortunately, the opposite still remains. These traits that help to identify our uniqueness can and have been used to divide us. In the world of mental health, disparities exist in terms of things like rates of mental illness and access to appropriate care based on these very characteristics. While it is always important to acknowledge the realities of underserved populations and work to promote equality and inclusion, we are in the middle of a great opportunity to shine a spotlight on the issue.
As many are aware, June is Pride Month. From the Stonewall riots in 1969 to the federal legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 and into today, Pride organizations have striven to overcome prejudice in support of the LGBTQ+ community. Part of this challenge has been addressing the mental health of LGBTQ+ individuals. It is estimated that around 4.5 percent of the adult population in the United States identifies as LGBTQ+. Alarmingly, nearly 40 percent of those individuals report having a mental illness in the past year, compared with just 20 percent of the general adult population.
Being LGBTQ+ is not a mental illness. Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer does not in any way indicate, result from or lead to mental illness. The elevated rate of mental illness stands to reason because LGBTQ+ individuals face an increased risk of discrimination, harassment, fear and traumatic events as a result of individual and systemic mistreatment.
Thankfully, local resources exist in support of the mental health of those in the LGBTQ+ community. Organizations like PFLAG Cedar Rapids, One Iowa, and Tanager Place’s LGBTQ Youth Center all provide resources, support and events for members, families and allies of the LGBTQ+ community.
July is recognized as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, which was created in 2008 to improve awareness of mental illness and access to treatment among minorities. Perhaps less familiar to many, the efforts highlighted during the month are important, as the unique mental health challenges of minorities are often overlooked. Things like experiencing racism and discrimination are in themselves a very real form of trauma.
Racial, ethnic, gender and sexual minorities are less likely to receive proper mental illness diagnosis and treatment and have less access to quality mental health care compared to majority peers. Minority individuals also often face cultural stigmas around mental health care, a lack of access to diverse providers, lack of culturally competent providers and, potentially, a lack of insurance.
Valuable resources exist throughout our communities in support of these minority populations, as well. Places like the Linn County Mental Health Access Center, Foundation 2, Abbe Community Mental Health and numerous mental health providers are working in support of individuals from diverse backgrounds.
Diversity of all kinds makes our communities stronger. While there are many attributes that make us unique as individuals and in our own human experience, we can all make the choice to support one another in the journey toward greater mental health and well-being.
Bryan Busch is a licensed mental health counselor in Cedar Rapids. He also works at Folience, the parent company of The Gazette. He can be reached at email@example.com.