Mental health & the LGBTQ+ community:
know your risk factors, be an ally

All aspects of our identity impact our physical and mental health, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Evidence shows that members of the LGBTQIA+ community are at a higher risk for experiencing mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety.

Identifying as LGBTQ+ does not inherently increase the risk of experiencing a mental illness. However, it is important to recognize that many members of the LGBTQ+ community can face discrimination, prejudice, family rejection, and denial of civil and human rights, which can negatively impact mental health.

At a glance:

  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition.
  • Transgender youth are twice as likely to experience depressive symptoms, seriously consider suicide, and attempt suicide compared to cisgender lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and questioning youth, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health.

How We Can Help

Understanding your risk factors can help you make a plan for caring for your mental health. If life seems tougher than usual, you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, or want to talk to someone about what you’re going through, we are here to help. 

Our knowledgeable, caring counselors can provide a listening ear, help you navigate your situation, connect you with on-going resources, and more. Phone and in-person counselor support is free and available 24/7, every day of the year.

At Foundation 2 Crisis Services, we acknowledge how personal experiences and identity shape our mental health. Our training program includes education and best practices for supporting LGBTQIA+ clients and their family and friends.

Additionally, we provide a 24/7, 365 youth shelter for young people who do not have stable housing, including a disproportionate number of young people who identify as LGBTQ+. Our Fostering Futures program also provides support services for youth who have aged out of foster care; 34 percent of youth aging out of foster care report a sexual identity other than hetersexual.

Connect with Foundation 2 Crisis Services’ crisis center at any time by calling 319-362-2174 or 988. You can also text or chat with us. Learn more about our crisis services here. 

Be a Mental Health Ally

The largest protective factor for LGBTQ+ community mental health is family and community support. Having at least one accepting adult can reduce the risk of a suicide attempt among LGBTQ young people by 40%. Transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all or most people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected.

Here are more ways you can be a mental health ally:

Question your biases. Learn about LGBTQ+ identities, the LGBTQ+ movement, and the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. Question your own assumptions about love, sex, and what it means to be part of a relationship or a family. It’s okay to have questions or make mistakes as part of the learning process. By educating yourself first, you can acknowledge these mistakes and grow from them to better support your loved ones.

Respect their Identity. Respect the identity of LGBTQ+ people in your life by affirming how they choose to live, love, and identify. Use their chosen gender pronouns, respect how they choose to dress and present themselves physically, accept the gender of their partners, and don’t pressure them to conform to your or society’s idea of self-expression, family, or love.

Don’t “Out” Them Without Their Permission. Navigating when to be “out” about one’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a highly personal choice. There are lots of reasons an LGBTQ+ person might choose to be out in some contexts and not as open in others.

Have Their Back. If your relative is queer, you can educate other family members on LGBTQ+ identity, and support them if they’re faced with discrimination from family members. In the workplace or educational space, you can advocate for diversity trainings and gender neutral bathrooms. And anywhere you go, you can call out anti-LGBTQ words and actions when you see them.

Support Them in Accessing Mental Health Resources. Supporting the mental health of your LGBTQ+ loved ones requires all the conventional skills of being a good friend: be present, make sure they know you are there for them, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you notice they’re going through a hard time.


Listen to our two-part episode of "When Life Gets Tough" on mental health and the LGBTQIA+ community.

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