Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

June is PRIDE Month

June is PRIDE month.

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Pride is defined as having “feelings of deep pleasure and satisfaction derived from  qualities that are widely admired; consciousness of one’s own dignity.” Pride should belong to each and every person. So why do LGBTQ+ people have to fight for something that should be a universal right? And what are some mental health implications?

1. June is ‘PRIDE’ month. Fifty-four years ago, a series of riots took place over several days after a police raid at the NYC Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Lower Manhattan. This watershed event became known as the  Stonewall Uprising, and just one year later, in 1970, the first Pride marches were held in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Thousands of LGBTQ+ people and allies gathered to commemorate the tragedy of Stonewall, say “never again,” and demonstrate for equal rights.

2. Global Perspectives on Homosexuality. Although great strides have been made in many parts of the world regarding our understanding of gender and sexuality, 64 countries still have laws criminalizing homosexuality on the books. Nearly half of these are in Africa. The good news, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), is that many countries, including several in Africa, have recently changed policies or implemented reforms to decriminalize same-sex unions and improve the rights of LGBTQ+ people. We still have a long way to go.

3. Gnarled History of Sexuality and Classification of Mental Disorders. After almost a century-long practice of declaring homosexuality a mental disorder, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association moved to remove homosexuality from the diagnostic system widely used in the United States (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)). Globally, it took longer. The World Health Organization, responsible for the global classification system of mental disorders, took until 1990 to remove homosexuality from its classification system (the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD).

4. Sexuality and Mental Health. LGBTQ+ individuals are more than twice as likely as heterosexual men and women to have a mental health disorder, including depression, anxiety, and substance misuse. Studies strongly indicate that these mental health burdens stem directly from the stigma and prejudice that result in the marginalization and discrimination that LGBTQ+ individuals experience. The Minority Stress Model helps explain the stress – socially based, unique, and chronic – experienced by minority communities that results in challenging emotions and experiences of marginalized populations and increases the risk for mental health issues. The data are clear that when LGBTQ+ individuals do not experience these stresses, their mental health risks are greatly diminished, providing support for the idea that the source of the mental health risk is not a function of one’s gender or sexual orientation, per se, but a function of how they are treated in society.

5. Violence and Mental Health Risks. Even as dramatic advances in equality for LGBTQ+ people in much of the world has advanced, violence against the LGBTQ+ community has also increased over recent years. In 2017, anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes rose 86% over the year before. LGBTQ+ people of color – particularly transgender people – are disproportionately affected by these hate crimes. Research shows that trans people are over four times more likely to be victims of violent crime than cisgender people. Murders of trans people over the last ten years have nearly doubled, with Black trans women disproportionately at risk.

Mental health for all will be enhanced when PRIDE is realized for all. However we identify in terms of gender and sexual orientation, let us stand together.

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Global Mental Health WHO Collaborating Centre at Columbia University.

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