Event Links Mental Health and Act of Coming Out

Photo by Pauline Park

The correlation between mental health and the act of coming “out of the closet” was discussed on Thursday at an event hosted by the Active Minds club and the Women’s Center.

The event started off with the students getting to know each other. Sophomore Grace Maute, who led the event, first talked about what coming-out it is like both before and during the process. A YouTube video detailing different individuals’ experiences coming-out was then shown.

Following the conclusion of the video, Maute briefly shared her personal story regarding her self-identification as a member of the LGBT community before moving on to her main presentation. Although people who have already defined their gender on the spectrum may suffer from various mental issues and extreme stress, people who are in the process of defining their gender are at a higher risk of various mental issues. According to Maute, mental health issues occur in both people who have come out and people who are in the process of coming out, due to the stress of being questioned about one’s identity.

Suicidal thoughts are more prominent when people are subject to the enormous amount of stress that coming out sometimes induces.

Maute presented that, “LGBT people between age 10 and 24 experience suicide at higher rates than their straight peers.”

According to Maute, LGBT youth are three times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts than heterosexual people.

“Substance abuse is also a big issue in the LGBT community; 20 to 30 percent of LGBT people deal with abuses while only 9 percent of the general population do, and the same goes with alcohol, a much higher rate,” said Maute.

Maute also mentioned that “transgender people of color are at much higher risks of violence and mental health issues because they experience more stigma within their own communities and within the community at large.”

At the event it was noted that family support is important to these individuals, as many people who are rejected by their families because of how they identify are at a higher risk of suicidal thoughts or actions.

“I did find it really helpful. There’s like a lot of questions, and as a community and mental health major, and not really understanding what goes on in a LGBT community, I thought it was really helpful. I think I will remember how not easy it is to be the other. I feel like it’s something like we say that privilege where like all the time and like I just for the first time I realized that how not easy it was to be a part of that community. Like from outside looking in, everyone is against them, no one tries to understand them. As a Christian, it’s like ‘oh no’, ‘oh man I want to understand what’s going on'. So being about understanding, there’s so much to go through. Like you don’t have the opportunity or the choice to be like, 'Oh, this is what I’m going through,' because no one will understand, they’ll just lump it together. It’s crazy,” Tiajah Beach, senior, said when asked what she thinks she will remember the most and apply to her everyday life.