Half of LGBT Scots battle depression


A study by Stonewall Scotland has revealed the poor level of mental health among LGBT people

10th January 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Half of LBGT Scots have experienced depression in the last year, research has revealed.

A new study from Stonewall Scotland - the lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality charity - has exposed alarming levels of poor mental health among LGBT people.

The study also reveals a shocking level of unfair treatment faced by many LGBT people when accessing healthcare services.

The research, based on YouGov polling of over 1,250 LGBT people in Scotland, shows that half of LGBT people (49%) have experienced depression in the last year and 60% have reported episodes of anxiety. This compares to one in ten adults in Scotland who have faced two or more symptoms of depression in the last year, according to the Scottish Government’s Scottish Health Survey.

Experiences of anti-LGBT abuse and discrimination on the street, at home, and at work, were also revealed to significantly increase a person’s risk of poor mental health. Two thirds of LGBT people (65%) who’ve been the victim of a hate crime related to their sexual orientation or gender identity had experienced depression, while three in four (75%) reported having episodes of anxiety.

The situation is particularly concerning for trans people. In the last 12 months alone, 7% of trans participants said they attempted to take their own life in the last year, compared to 2%  of lesbian, gay and bi people who aren’t trans. A further 52% of trans people have also had thoughts about taking their own life, compared to 29% of LGB people who aren’t trans.

The research found that LGBT people often have their specific health needs overlooked by healthcare professionals and many face unfair treatment when accessing healthcare. Shockingly, one in four LGBT patients (24%) had witnessed negative remarks about LGBT people from healthcare staff while accessing services. One in eight LGBT people (12%) said they have avoided treatment altogether for fear of the discrimination they may face.

Of those who do seek support, one in eight (13%) have experienced some form of unequal treatment from healthcare staff because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. One in four LGBT people (27%) have experienced healthcare staff lacking understanding of their specific health needs.

On the basis of these findings, Stonewall Scotland recommends that all healthcare staff receive training on LGBT patients’ needs in relation to both mental and physical health, with these needs also taken into consideration throughout the implementation of the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy.  Stonewall Scotland is also calling for a zero-tolerance approach to incidents of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic discrimination in the health service.

Colin Macfarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, said: “Last year, our research found an 89% increase over a five-year period in the proportion of LGBT people who had experienced a hate crime. Sadly, this report highlights the impact that hostility and abuse have on mental health and wellbeing, with many lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in Scotland experiencing poor mental health this year.

“It’s vital that LGBT people feel able to access quality healthcare when they need it, but this report shows they can expect to face unequal treatment and discrimination when accessing healthcare services.  Many LGBT people – particularly those who are trans – continue to be ‘outed’ without their consent, treated with inappropriate curiosity and subjected to unequal treatment by healthcare staff. Consequently, LGBT people can be deterred from accessing NHS services, with many avoiding healthcare treatment for fear of discrimination.

“Fortunately, we’ve seen strong commitments from NHS Scotland to ensure health services support LGBT people.  The Scottish Government and NHS Scotland must continue to take action to ensure all staff understand the mental and physical health needs of LGBT people and how to support them.  We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with NHS Scotland to ensure that our health service enables LGBT people in Scotland to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.”

Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey said: “These findings are concerning, which is precisely why we are working with LGBT equality organisations, including Stonewall Scotland, to eradicate discrimination and stigma, investing more than £1 million to support the work of LGBT equality organisations across Scotland in 2018-19.

“Our national partnership between Stonewall Scotland and NHS Scotland is supporting health boards to ensure that the workforce has the skills and knowledge needed to meet the specific healthcare needs of LGBT service users.

“We are continually looking for ways to build on that partnership and I will be meeting with LGBT organisations soon to discuss how we better address the needs of LGBT service users through the Mental Health Strategy.”