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Mace & Crown | June 28, 2017

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Mental Health and the LGBTQ+ Community Talk

Mental Health and the LGBTQ+ Community Talk

Petra Rich
Contributing Writer

Dr. Alex Dryden and ODU’s Safe Space organization hosted a lecture on the mental health issues facing the LGBTQ+ community on Oct. 25 in the River Rooms of the Webb Center.

Dr. Dryden is a psychologist in the ODU counseling services department and a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

“As a marginalized population, we face different levels and types of discrimination,” Dryden said.

The lecture identified these different types of discrimination and the ways they affect the mental and physical health of those who identify as LGBTQ+. Dryden discussed how the LGBTQ+ community is three times more likely to face discrimination than the general population. This can lead to depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicidal ideation, substance abuse and self-medication. Stemming from fears of facing ostracization, prejudice and harassment, these diseases can be detrimental to the lives of those who identify as LGBTQ+.

LGBTQ+ discrimination can come from peers, strangers, medical professionals, employers or even other LGBTQ+ community members.

“I didn’t want to tell my health professional I was gay because I didn’t want him to give me and HIV test,” Dryden said, reflecting upon the time during the 80’s and 90’s when HIV and AIDS were heavily associated with being gay.

Although times have changed, discrimination from medical professionals is still faced for some such as Dryden’s partner whose doctor stopped their appointment to pray upon finding out his sexual orientation.

Dryden identified that coming out versus concealing their identity is a dilemma for many who are LGBTQ+. Youth LGBTQ+ are five times for likely to experience bullying for being open about their sexuality. 30 percent of teen suicides are related to sexual identity crisis and fear of hatred or prejudice due to LGBTQ+ identification. Suicide is also the leading cause of death for the LGBTQ+ community, ages 10 to 24.

Another problem Dryden identified is the major substance abuse problems that LGBTQ+ community members face. 20-30 percent of these members abuse substances and 25 percent abuse alcohol. These numbers are shocking compared to the 5-10 percent of the general population that suffers from substance abuse.

“Many people tell me it’s easier to just get high because they don’t have to think about the problems they’re facing,” Dryden said, “but I tell them these problems have to go somewhere. They can’t just be ignored.”

Dryden also pointed out that it is essential to respect and support all members of the LGBTQ+ community whether or not there is personal involvement. Many bisexual and transgender individuals are not taken seriously and face discrimination for ‘not knowing what they want’.

“You’re damaging that person [who identifies as transgender] by not choosing to respect their gender identity” Dryden said.

The final topic discussed was domestic violence within the LGBTQ+ culture. 3.6 percent of lesbians and 3.1 percent of gay males report relationship violence. However the legal definition of domestic violence mainly excludes LGBTQ+ relationships.

With the lack of support and representation the LGBTQ+ community faces the main message that Dryden wants to get across is that people do not have to go through things alone.

“Don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own. Counseling services are here 24/7.”