Mental health conditions vary from person to person, with some suffering from different degrees of mental illnesses due to social prejudice, stress and the consequent stigma attached to their status in the society, including those from LGB community. Previous researches indicated that mental illnesses were predominant among such people than heterosexuals.
Psychologists believe that persistent discrimination against the LGB youth results in a stressful and hostile environment, often looked upon as the root cause of many major mental health problems. In the study, titled “Differences in Mental Health Symptoms Across Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Youth in Primary Care Settings,” the scientists observed that bisexuals and questioning youth (those unsure about their sexual preferences) had a higher probability of developing depression, anxiousness and pain arising from trauma.
Intersectionality of gender identity results in greater risks for questioning women
For the study, published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health in April 2016, the scientists observed 2,513 participants aged between 14 and 24 years. They used Behavioral Health Screen to look into mental health condition of patients. Each respondent was checked for symptoms of depressive behavior, persistent worrying, extent of trauma suffered, substance abuse and tendency to commit suicide during the study period or the entire course of life. The participants were segregated into groups of gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning.
It was observed that female bisexuals and questioners had aggravated levels of depression, anxiety and traumatic stress as compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Moreover, bisexual females scored the highest when rated for lifetime suicidal tendencies. Questioning females and lesbians also showed greater inclination toward commit suicide, in comparison to heterosexual females. Thus, when it came to the matter of depression, anxiety, traumatic distress and substance abuse, lesbians faced no greater risk than those who confessed of feeling attracted only to the opposite gender, however, this does not hold true for lifetime suicidal tendencies.
Co-author of the study Annie Shearer, a research assistant with Drexel’s Family Intervention Science program within the College of Nursing and Health Professions, said, “I think this contradicts previous findings that same-sex attraction is always a risk factor for mental health symptoms. This may reflect an increasing societal acceptance of same-sex attraction and relationships.”
In case of men, though gay and bisexual men scored high on the scale of depression and traumatic stress, gay males also reported to be suffering from higher anxiety levels than their heterosexual counterparts. Bisexual males tended to be more anxious than heterosexual males, and in fact, they scored higher on the suicidal ideation scale compared to their heterosexual counterparts. However, potential risks for mental health problems were comparatively low in questioning males as compared to questioning female respondents.
Bisexual and questioning individuals experience prejudice
Though the authors of the study could not identify the exact cause of these disparities, they suggested that differences in scores could be due to the intersectionality of sexual and gender identity that resulted in greater risks for questioning women.
Previous studies had focused on differences in mental health conditions between homosexuals and heterosexual individuals as not much difference had been observed in mental health conditions of people belonging to the same group.
“I think bisexual persons and, perhaps, questioning individuals as well, experience prejudice and stigma from gay and lesbian communities in addition to heterosexual communities. Furthermore, some people still refuse to acknowledge bisexual and other non-binary identities as legitimate, which I think can be very harmful to those who can’t — and shouldn’t have to — identify as exclusively heterosexual or homosexual,” said Shearer.
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The society should not discriminate people on grounds of sexuality and ensure proper mental health to all, including bisexuals and questioning people.
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