Announcing The First Ever Transgender Mental Health Survey

Transgender people face incredible obstacles in many aspects of life, chief among them is accessing affordable, affirming, and competent healthcare. The National LGBTQ Task Force and Trans Lifeline are joining forces to help identify the unique barriers that transgender people face in accessing mental health care by conducting the most comprehensive survey of mental health in the transgender community. The survey’s ultimate goal is to collect data that informs mental health practitioners so that they can develop policies that improve support systems for this vulnerable population.

Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán of National LGBTQ Task Force on left and Greta Martela of Trans Lifeline in center announcing the #TransMentalHealth Survey at The White House for #LGBTQDisablityDay

LGBTQ people are almost 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder than their straight counterparts. Many factors contribute to this prevence such as the fear of coming out, facing discrimination, being targeted for violence, and struggling to access healthcare. Results from the largest survey of the trans community, Injustice at Every Turn, indicate that transgender people are more impacted by all of these factors yet transgender people are more likely to live in poverty, to experience discrimination in healthcare settings, and to experience violence due to their identities than others in the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities. Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán of the Task Force says, “We know that 41% of trans people attempt suicide but we have no idea what happens after. Do people get the care they need? Do the experience discrimination when accessing health care? Do they make future attempts? We missing a lot of information that can help us address the issue.”

Earlier this year a transgender man with Asperger’s was killed by the police in Mesa, Arizona. The police responded after Kayden Clarke reached out for help during a suicidal episode. According to a survey Trans Lifeline conducted, about a third of trans people experiencing a crisis will not seek out help out of fear that they will be mistreated by first responders or that they will be committed to a psychiatric facility where many trans people face conditions that are humiliating at best and dangerous at worst. Greta Martela, Executive Director of the Trans Lifeline, adds, “Many of our callers perceive the Trans Lifeline as the only safe place they can turn to. That’s a huge problem because short-term crisis support doesn’t address deeper mental health issues, and we have many repeat callers who are consistently in crisis because they can’t access the ongoing mental health care they need.”

At the same time that LGBTQ people confront stigma and prejudice based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, they also face societal bias against mental health conditions. Some people report having to hide their gender identity or sexual orientation from those in the mental health system for fear of being ridiculed or rejected. Some hide their mental health conditions from other in the LGBTQ community. Martela adds, “Based on our lived experiences, Trans Lifeline operators are working to change the social dynamics within our community and offer peer support. Results of this survey will help shape psychiatric hospital policies, mental health professional standards, and public health policy so that we can improve trans people’s mental health outcomes.”

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