As part of EuropeActive’s commitment to promote and safeguard an inclusive and welcoming environment for all across the fitness and physical activity ecosystem, and as part of EuropeActive’s Inclusion calendar, we are, for the third year, celebrating and acknowledging the LGBTQ+ community through Pride Month (June). This is further correlated with our European activities as it falls under our awareness-raising activities for our #HealthyLifestyle4All pledge.
For the third year of EuropeActive’s celebration of Pride month, we are pleased to share a piece from Mental Health Europe’s Margi Marchetti (Junior Communication Officer), that sheds light on mental health in the LGBTQIA+ community.
In May 2023, the European Mental Health Week (EMHW) organised by Mental Health Europe focused on Mentally Healthy Communities to increase understanding and learning about mental health in various setting such as communities, schools, workplaces, and at home so that everyone can thrive and flourish at every stage of life.
The goal of the week was, among others, to raise awareness about the way social and cultural factors impact various communities’ mental health. In other words, the European Mental Health Week sought to shed light on those psychosocial determinants that impact mental health, and explore ways to support communities in vulnerable situations. At the same time, the topic of Mentally Healthy Communities also prompts us to examine and learn from the practices that said communities develop when external support is lacking.
As data shows, LGBTQ+ individuals often live in vulnerable circumstances that increase their likelihood to develop mental health issues. It is important to note that being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community does not directly cause mental health problems. Instead, it’s the presence of stigma and (covert and overt) discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, social isolation and rejection, barriers to care, legal protection, violence and microaggression that make LGBTQIA+ people more exposed to experience mental health issues, often starting at a very young age.
Non-binary speaker, educator and campaigner Jude Guaitamacchi (@becomingjude) explains in an Instagram Live hosted by MHE (as part of the EMHW 2023), “Imagine growing up in a world where you have these innate aspects of who you are and you are unable to basically see anyone like yourself. You are being bullied for these innate aspects of who you are, which are your authentic self, and you don’t really see anyone like yourself. And so, growing up like that is going to have an enormous impact on anyone in navigating who they are.”
Over the years, the LGBTQIA+ community has developed ways to self-protect and self-support, becoming one of the strongest and most visible communities in the world. However, the uncertainty most queer people experience in terms of civil rights, access to care, social inclusion, visibility, and more, takes a toll on the mental health of LGBTQIA+ individuals, who often have to rely on themselves or other members of the community for support.
Jude spoke about their personal experience of relying on community support during their transition, and how that support has been crucial. During the Instagram Live, they shared, “my first year of transition began in Brighton which has the biggest community of trans people in the whole of the UK. We had people here that were able to guide me, understood me, and were able to facilitate this process which isn’t necessarily the case for a lot of people.”
The barriers faced by LGBTQIA+ people include “family and social rejection, discrimination, lack of access to healthcare, and of course the intersections of various identities play into that as well” – all of this results in impacting their mental health on the long-term. It is crucial and necessary to take a step further in creating accessible and inclusive health and mental health services to support queer individuals who are in need of care. Jude took a moment to mention that young queer people in particular face additional challenges, as “they are not in control of their environment, so coming out can be dangerous and it can bring about a lot of conflicting and difficult experiences.”
Mental Health Europe’s goal, before, during and after the European Mental Health Week, is to shed light on mental health inequalities, and encourage conversations about the necessary changes that are required for every individual to thrive as active members of society. Pride Month serves as an opportune moment to spotlight these important conversations and extend support to the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole.