A new report from LGBTQ+-equality charity Stonewall, released today, reveals “worryingly high” rates of poor mental health among the UK’s LGBTQ+ population.
The research, part of Stonewall’s LGBT In Britain series, was carried out by YouGov between February and April 2017 and asked 5,375 LGBTQ+ people from across England, Scotland and Wales about their life in Britain today.
These findings must act as a “wake-up call” for healthcare providers, Stonewall says.
The report also details how LGBTQ+ people face barriers to accessing healthcare, including hearing healthcare staff making homophobic, biphobic or transphobic comments; facing invasive questioning; receiving unequal treatment because of being LGBTQ+; being outed without their consent; or being pressured by healthcare staff to use so-called “gay conversion” therapies, to change their sexuality or gender identity.
In the last year, 52% of the LGBTQ+ people surveyed were depressed. This number rose to 55% of LGBTQ+ women, 62% of BAME LGBTQ+ people, 67% of trans people and 68% of LGBTQ+ young people, aged between 18 and 24. The rate of depression was also higher for those who had experienced a hate crime (69%) or were from a poorer economic background (64%, compared with 48% of those from a higher-income household).
According to mental-health charity Mind, one in six adults (roughly 16%) in England reports experiencing a mental-health problem, like anxiety or depression, in any given week.
LGBTQ+ people who are also BAME fare worse than their white counterparts. According to the report, 22% of BAME LGBTQ+ people experienced an eating disorder in the last year, compared with 11% of white LGBTQ+ people. The BAME LGBTQ+ community is also at particular risk of suicide attempts, with 8% attempting suicide in the last year, compared with less than 1% of the general UK population.
As Stonewall says, those with multiple protected characteristics, like BAME or disabled LGBTQ+ people, are facing the biggest inequalities. It can’t go on
Disabled LGBTQ+ people are also more likely to have attempted suicide in the last year (8%), more likely to have experienced some form of addiction in the last year (19%, compared with 7% of non-disabled LGBTQ+ people) and almost twice as likely – 59% of disabled LGBTQ+ people compared with 31% of LGBTQ+ who aren’t disabled – to have felt, at some point in the last year, that life isn’t worth living.
Disabled LGBTQ+ people are also one of the communities most likely to have received unequal treatment from healthcare staff for being LGBTQ+ (20% of respondents), along with non-binary people (also 20%) and 24% of Asian LGBTQ+ people. These numbers, compared with 13% of the general LGBTQ+ population having received unequal treatment from healthcare providers, are a stark reminder that inequality and oppression are experienced at varying levels within the LGBTQ+ community.
The trans community also faced increased difficulties. A third of trans respondents avoided healthcare treatment for fear of prejudice – and, in the last year, one in five trans people has heard healthcare staff make transphobic, homophobic or biphobic comments. One respondent to the survey said, “An NHS nurse asked about my recent gender-reassignment surgery and then went on to compare me to being a paedophile as if being trans is the same thing.”
Last year, more than a third of trans people in the UK reported being the victim of a hate crime. Trans people are twice as likely to suffer a hate crime as the rest of the LGBTQ+ community, while, in the last four years, attacks on the LGBTQ+ community as a whole have increased by almost 80%.
Being discriminated against for looking like part of the LGBTQ+ community is still very real and very prevalent in the UK in 2018. Accessing healthcare is a basic human right that should not carry this risk. And, as Stonewall says, those with multiple protected characteristics, like BAME or disabled LGBTQ+ people, are facing the biggest inequalities. It can’t go on.