Minding Your Health - Info to Help the LGBT Community Stay Well

A year ago, the Institute of Medicine released a report highlighting the fact that LGBT people’s mental and medical health needs are being unmet (http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=13128). The Institute of Medicine, an independent nonprofit organization, creates reports like these to provide objective advice to public health policymakers. These reports are often used to shape future research, training, and evidence-based treatment in the public and private health-care sectors. Through this report, LGBT health care is finally getting the recognition necessary to influence a change in public health policy.

The term “sexual minorities” is more inclusive than LGBT; it includes other identities such as intersex or gender queer. The term LGBT, however, is still commonly used to describe this broader population of sexual minorities.

We know that LGBT individuals have higher rates of substance abuse, are at higher risk for suicide, and often experience higher rates of depression and anxiety as a result of social stigma and family rejection. But did you know that sexual micro-aggressions keep LGBT individuals at odds with the health-care system? Sexual micro-aggressions are subtle attitudes that convey a negative connotation about an individual’s sexual identity. Because of this, sexual minorities are less
likely to seek health care, resulting
in diminished access, missed screenings, late intervention, and poorer health outcomes.

In response to this unmet need, a group of mental health therapists in the Kansas City community created an organization dedicated to improving the health of LGBT individuals and their families.  The LGBT-Affirmative Therapists Guild of Greater Kansas City is a grassroots organization of licensed mental and medical health professionals, as well as students-in-training.  The 100-plus members of this organization share a collaborative commitment to making culturally competent health care available to all sexual minorities, based on the premise that LGBT and heterosexual identities are equally valid.

The Guild’s website, lgbtguild.com, is a vast resource for LGBT medical and mental health care. You can even find local therapists, dentists, doctors, and others who are dedicated to providing LGBT-affirming health care.

I believe that part of being a health-care provider is advocating for our underserved clients. Each week I compile a list of articles to help Guild members gain a perspective on how LGBT issues impact health care. Camp Magazine has asked me to share this information with you, giving more folks the opportunity to learn about LGBT health and wellness issues being discussed in the media.

I hope that this monthly column can empower and educate people, and enhance understanding of the health and wellness needs that are unique to various LGBT communities. Let’s begin.

“The journey of a gay jock.” A hockey-playing teen is inspired by Brian and Patrick Burke’s NHL advertisement that encourages LGBT athletes to get involved. More at: www.montrealgazette.com/technology/journey+openly+jock/6317327/story.html.

Legislators in various states protest by zeroing in on men’s reproductive health. In Ohio, State Sen. Nina Turner, a Democrat, is trying to make a point about regulating women’s health by introducing a bill to regulate the use of Viagra. More at: www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/03/15/148695307/in-protest-democrats-zero-in-on-mens-reproductive-health?ps=cprs.

A men’s sexual health group will start this spring at Good Samaritan Project. Topics include improving intimacy; sexual addiction and pornography; dealing with sexual trauma; and sexual/gender identity concerns. More at: www.jefflubsen.com/group1.html.

Bullying as a risk factor for suicide in gay youth. A study released in February from Northwestern University demonstrates how repeated bullying over time can take its toll and increase the chances of other health risks such as depression and anxiety. More at: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_121909.html

New studies demonstrate a higher risk for children struggling with gender identity. One study from Children’s Hospital in Boston reported higher incidence of depression, abuse, and PTSD. More at www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_122108.html.

The San Francisco Police Department launches an “It Gets Better” video. Made for Trevor Project, the video offers encouraging statements by law enforcement officers who have dealt with discrimination based on sexual and gender identity. More at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RMunYfzlGs.

The National Coalition for LGBT Health commemorates National LGBT Health Awareness Week. In Washington, House and Senate briefings were included on the health and well-being of LGBT families. More at: lgbthealth.webolutionary.com.

A new best-practices publication was released for working with LGBT parents who want to adopt children. More at www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2011_10_Expanding_Resources_BestPractices.pdf.

An op-ed column in the New York Times, “Valuing Our Families,” discusses the buzz words “family values” in relation to same-sex marriage. More at http://nyti.ms/yJFdvV.

Jeff Lubsen is the organizer of the LGBT-Affirmative Therapists Guild of Greater Kansas City, a grass-roots organization of licensed psychologists, social workers and professional counselors, who offer support and resources for sexual minorities.  He also works with individuals and their families who are dealing with relationship, depression, anxiety, self-esteem, sexual identity and gender identity issues.

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