Lucy Campbell: LGBT History Month – Caring for our Mind

Lucy Campbell

Trainee Lucy Campbell reflects on mental health in the LGBTQ+ community.

Selisse Berry, executive director of the workplace equality organisation Out & Equal, once said: “I believe that no one should ever have to choose between a career we love and living our lives with authenticity and integrity.” 

During our third week exploring LGBT History Month, we take a closer look at the mind – the second strand of this year’s “Body, Mind and Spirit” theme. More specifically, we will explore the impact of societal and workplace attitudes that can and do contribute to mental health issues among the LGBTQ+ community.

What do we know about mental health in the LGBTQ+ community?

Studies in the UK in recent years indicate that individuals identifying as LGBTQ+ are at higher risk of experiencing mental health problems than those who do not. A report published by Stonewall in 2018 revealed that 52% of LGBTQ+ people had experienced depression in the year before and that almost 46% of trans people had thought about taking their own life.

A 2020 study by the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign shows these issues are likely to start from a young age, with young LGBTQ+ people being 20% less likely to have positive emotional wellbeing than heterosexual or cisgendered young people. There are a vast number of factors behind such staggering figures, such as members of the LGBTQ+ community being at a greater risk of experiencing hate crime, and more likely to encounter discrimination in the healthcare system or the workplace.

There is a strong interplay between the facets of this year’s “Body, Mind & Spirit” theme. As well as being at a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health, LGBTQ+ individuals (particularly gay men) have a higher chance of experiencing BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder), which can lead to eating disorders. This emphasises the importance of looking after and protecting the mental health of those in the LGBTQ+ community. If the mind suffers, the body will inevitably suffer too. 

The introduction of the Equality Act in 2010 heralded a vast improvement in the protection of LGBTQ+ employees from discrimination, harassment and victimisation at work. Despite this, in 2018 more than one third of LGBTQ+ staff hid or disguised the fact that they were LGBTQ+ at work because they were afraid of discrimination, and almost one in five were the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues because they were LGBTQ+.

What can we do to help?

Employers should ensure they have clear zero tolerance, equality and mental health policies in place, monitor staff diversity and hold regular staff training to raise awareness and promote inclusion. Workplace mental health policies must recognise how different groups are affected by mental health issues. For employees, it is important to continually encourage employers to be inclusive by giving feedback and reporting any incidents of discrimination at work. By welcoming workplace policies that support LGBTQ+ employees we will allow LGBTQ+ individuals to be heard and protected, but there is also evidence that this leads to greater job commitment, improved workplace relationships, increased job satisfaction, and improved health outcomes among LGBTQIA+ employees.

At Shepherd and Wedderburn we recognise the importance of continually striving to ensure equality in the workplace and to support employees through any mental health difficulties they may be suffering as a result of societal attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. We are part of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme, which has provided us with more tools to work towards achieving goals set by the UK’s leading forum for employers on LGBTQ+ inclusion, as well as meeting internal goals within the firm. 

“We are all stronger, smarter, talented, beautiful and more resilient than we were told” – Cece McDonald, transgender activist.

You can visit the following websites for more information: 

Lucy Campbell is a trainee solicitor and member of Shepherd and Wedderburn’s LGBTQ+ Focus Group