Mental health, despite being spoken about more frequently is still seen as a taboo subject in everyday life, and in particular, in the workplace. According to the charity MIND, at least one in six workers experience mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Having conversations with your employer about mental health is often uncomfortable and challenging.
If a person is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or any minority sexual and gender identity (LGBT+) statistics demonstrate that it can be even more difficult to discuss mental health issues in the workplace. There is a large correlation between the LGBT+ community and people who experience mental health issues. There is a higher rate of suicidal ideation and self-harm: 20-25% compared with 2.4% in the general population and higher rates of anxiety and depression in LGBT+ men and women compared to the general population. Further, nearly half (48 per cent) of trans people under 26 said in research undertaken by Stonewall said that they had attempted suicide. This could be a result of “bullying, rejection, stigma and discrimination which too often lead to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and isolation” (Mind).
The Equality Act 2010 makes sexual orientation a protected characteristic, which means that the LGBT+ community are protected from acts of discrimination as a result of their sexuality. The object of the legislation is to ensure that people are treated equally in the workplace. Despite this protection, the lived experience is often quite different.
Employers should encourage LGBT+ awareness to help break down perceived barriers and encourage integration and inclusion. However, there is also a need to be mindful that we do not pre-victimise people who identify as LGBT+. Consistent portrayal of LGBT+ people as victims, or one-dimensional, leads to a prescribed image of what their life should look like. Finding the balance between helping LGBT+ people with mental health problems and allowing them to maintain their own identity is what is needed.
Confronting the issue of mental health and LGBT+ awareness can be a difficult task. There are many useful organisations that can help you understand how to create an LGBT+ safe space, or even as organisations that can offer guidance to LGBT+ employees who may be suffering. Charities such as Stonewall, Mind LGBTQ, Pink Therapy, Gendered Intelligence, all provide support and guidance. Visibility of LGBT+ issues and mental health issues are as essential for any workplace, as is creating a comfortable, safer working environment for all its employees.