The Importance of Pride Month for Mental Health
The Importance of Pride Month for Mental Health
Pride celebrations, festivals and marches dominate the calendar in the summer months and especially in July. If you are a member of the LGBITQ+ community, this can stir up all sorts of emotions. Although there is much to be proud of and celebrate, it’s important to remember that there is still progress to be made towards achieving true equality. By pondering what Pride means to us and to our community, we can initiate new dialogue, gain fresh perspectives, and explore new opportunities for growth and learning.
Why we celebrate Pride
Historically, LGBITQ+ identities were considered by psychology professionals to be mental illnesses. It wasn’t until 1990, when the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Unfortunately, to this day, 67 jurisdictions still criminalize same-sex sexual activity, with 42 of those countries prohibiting consensual sexual activity between women. Shockingly, 11 of those countries (https://www.thepinknews.com/2023/05/17/lgbtq-death-penalty-idahobit/) even impose the death penalty for queer individuals. As a result, the LGBITQ+ community has faced threats, abuse, mistreatment, detention, punishment, social exclusion, and even death.
As such, celebrating Pride is an opportunity to highlight the diverse lives of LGBITQ+ individuals and acknowledge the beauty and joy of the community. It’s a way to show the importance of acceptance and inclusion, which is especially crucial in the face of negative and prejudiced messages about LGBITQ+ people.
Pride has its own significant history that is important to remember. After all, for many years Pride was effectively also a protest. The first Pride happened in 1970, to mark a year since the Stonewall Uprising, where LGBITQ+ people protested the discrimination and violence they were experiencing from the police.
In 1972, the UK’s first Pride march took place in London. As well as a celebration, it was a protest against the unfair treatment of LGBITQ+ people. Male homosexuality stopped being illegal in England and Wales in 1967, but in 1972 it was still illegal in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Being gay was still classed as a ‘mental illness’ by the World Health Organization (WHO) until 1992 – and they didn’t stop classifying being transgender as a mental illness until 2019.
Society made lots of people feel ashamed of who they were because being gay, queer, or trans was seen as being wrong, which in turn had an adverse effect on their mental health.
For this and many other reasons, Pride protests have been important in securing the rights of LGBITQ+ people across the world. People continue to protest through Pride marches because LGBTIQ+ people still face discrimination and inequality in the UK and around the world.
Issues LGBTIQ+ people face
Being LGBTIQ+ does not automatically mean someone will have mental health issues, but does nonetheless mean that they are at higher risk of experiencing poor mental health, than other societal groups.
As a clear indication of this, a study conducted by Stonewall (Take Pride report 2022) found that over the previous year:
- half of LGBTIQ+ people had experienced depression, and three in five had experienced anxiety
- one in eight LGBTIQ+ people aged 18 to 24 had attempted to end their life
- almost half of trans people had thought about taking their life
- Hate crime
- Accessing healthcare
Pride month mental health benefits
There are a plethora of mental health benefits that can be derived from pride month, some of which have also been scientifically documented. So let’s have a look at a list our team have created for you below:
Connection: Several studies demonstrate the link between loneliness, poor mental health and early mortality. As it is often the case. LGBITQ+ people can feel disconnected from friends and family, and find social acceptance difficult to come. Causes such as pride month, enable them to feel a sense of inclusion and community through events, marches, articles and media focus. Even though taking part can initially be intimidating, the relatability, common interests, affirmation and human connection can be a tremendous confidence boost.
Identity: Lack of affirmation and constant abuse and questioning of one’s identity can often lead to a suffering mental health. As such, being alongside others on the same or similar path, can help LGBTQ+ to move between stages and reach a point where they are able to be proud and non-fearful of their identity.
Representation: Living in a society that adheres to hetero-normative and cis-normative standards makes it challenging to find individuals who share the same experiences. When we see others like ourselves represented, it gives us a sense of belonging and the confidence to pursue our goals fully. This can be the inspiration we need to take significant steps in our personal and professional lives, whether it be at school, work, or home.
Role models: Pride is a time of celebration, where we share our stories and listen to those who have overcome hardships to lead authentic lives. These stories can motivate us to take an important step in our journey towards personal pride.
The LGBTIQ+ community faces a higher risk of mental health problems. For example, depression, self-harm, alcohol, and drug abuse, and suicidal thoughts. Pride has been shown to have numerous mental health benefits for LGBTIQ+ individuals and the community as a whole. Not only does Pride help secure equal rights, which is crucial for their well-being. It also provides a platform for people to celebrate the best parts of being LGBITQ+. This includes acceptance, belonging, community, and joy! If you’re looking to explore your feelings or simply need a safe space to talk, psychotherapy is a great option, no matter where you are on your journey.
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