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Finding support for LGBTQIA+ mental health

If you're struggling to manage your mental health, you might want to seek help.

But we know that seeking support for mental health can be more difficult if you're LGBTQIA+. This may be due to discrimination, or healthcare professionals not understanding your needs.

I have found talking to a psychotherapist immensely helpful. I've been able to understand the reasons why I felt down on myself after many years of bullying and verbal abuse during my childhood and teenage years.

NHS services

If you're looking for support for your mental health, this will most likely be through the NHS.

Speak to your GP

This is normally the first step in getting support for your mental health. They can refer you for talking therapies. And prescribe medications like antidepressants.

Self-refer for talking therapies

Therapy and counselling involve talking things through with a professional. This can give you space to explore difficult feelings and experiences. This includes anything related to being LGBTQIA+.

In England, you can refer yourself for therapy through the NHS talking therapies service. You can't filter online results to find LGBTQIA+ services. And your therapist might not identify as LGBTQIA+ themselves. But they may still have experience of helping people with similar problems to you.

Pink Therapy has questions you might want to ask a new therapist if you're LGBTQIA+.

Crisis services

NHS crisis services can help if you're having a mental health crisis and need urgent support. This could include calling 999 or contacting a mental health crisis service. Using these services might involve staying in hospital.

See our pages on crisis services for more information. 

If you feel unable to keep yourself safe, it's a mental health emergency.

Get emergency advice

Can I get support from health professionals who are LGBTQIA+?

There's no guarantee that the healthcare professionals you will speak to in the NHS will be LGBTQIA+.

If you'd prefer to work with a LGBTQIA+ healthcare professional, you can mention it during your first contact with the service. Unfortunately, not all services will be able to do this.

Some NHS staff may wear an NHS Rainbow Badge to show that they're aware of the issues that LGBTQIA+ people can face when accessing healthcare.

The General Medical Council (GMC) has a guide on how healthcare professionals should treat LGBTQIA+ people.

LGBTQIA+ mental health services

There are specialist organisations that provide mental health support to LGBTQIA+ people.

Our useful contacts page has details of organisations who offer mental health advice, support and services to LGBTQIA+ people. There may also be a local Mind near you which offers LGBTQIA+ support.

Many of these organisations have staff or volunteers who identify as LGBTQIA+. And some offer services for free, although others you might have to pay for.

These are some types of support that LGBTQIA+ organisations offer.

Helplines

There are lots of helplines that offer information and support if you're struggling with your mental health. For example, Switchboard is a confidential LGBTQIA+ listening service. It offers a phone line, email and online chat.

Talking therapies

You can access some talking therapies through the NHS. But you might want a therapist who is LGBTQIA+ themselves. Or who has more experience of working with LGBTQIA+ people.

You may be able to access this for free or at a low cost from LGBTQIA+ charities. You can search for LGBTQIA+ organisations providing therapy on the Consortium website.

If you want to access private therapy, Pink Therapy has a directory of therapists who work with LGBTQIA+ people. But private therapists can be expensive.

I needed somewhere where I could be open about being trans and be open about mental health.

Advocacy

An advocate can help if you're experiencing discrimination. Or if you don't feel like healthcare professionals understand your needs when you talk to them.

An advocate might give you information to understand your rights. Or they might support you to get the care you need. You can search for LGBTQIA+ organisations providing advocacy on the Consortium website.

Coming out to my therapist

I was scared that they would just think I had mental health problems because I was gay

Do I have to tell healthcare professionals I'm LGBTQIA+?

You don't have to tell a healthcare professional that you're LGBTQIA+ to get their help. If you do, they might find it easier to help you get support. This is especially if you want support from an LGBTQIA+ service.

But there are lots of reasons you might not want to tell a healthcare professional you're LGBTQIA+. You may worry that:

  • You might experience discrimination
  • They won't take your mental health problem seriously because you're LGBTQIA+
  • They might ask inappropriate questions
  • They'll think being LGBTQIA+ is part of a mental health problem

If you want support from an advocate, you can search the Consortium website to find LGBTQIA+ organisations who provide advocacy.

You can complain if you're treated poorly by a healthcare professional after telling them you're LGBTQIA+. Some poor treatment might be considered discrimination under the Equality Act.

Can I complain about discrimination or poor treatment?

As an LGBTQIA+ person, you have the same right to healthcare as anyone else.

It's illegal for UK healthcare providers to discriminate based on:

  • Your sexual or gender identity
  • Your disability, which can include mental health problems
  • Other characteristics protected in the Equality Act

If you think you've been discriminated against, there are things you can do to challenge it. You can find out more from:

Not all LGBTQIA+ people are protected by the Equality Act. But this doesn't mean healthcare professionals can treat you badly. You still have a right to be treated fairly and with respect.

Health services might have their own LGBTQIA+ policies. These should outline how they’re meant to treat LGBTQIA+ people. You can ask to see these policies. And you can complain if they haven't followed their own policy.

If you want to complain about your experience of healthcare, visit our pages on complaining about health and social care.

Published: May 2024

Next review planned: May 2027

References and bibliography available on request.

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