How to have the talk with your LGBTQ+ friends about their mental health
Questions to Ask Your Friend or Loved One About Their Mental Health
Initially, things might be a little awkward. First, let them know you care about them. Find a private, quiet space and allow plenty of time to have a meaningful conversation. To ease into the conversation, you can start by asking these questions. If they are not quite ready to be open with you, ask how you can help them find someone they trust to have an honest conversation with.
Are you okay? You don’t seem like yourself lately.
Last time we went out, it seemed like you were drinking (or using) more than usual. Is there something going on?
Is there anything you want to talk about?
Have you been taking care of yourself?
Have you thought about hurting or killing yourself? Are you feeling safe? If not, let’s reach out to Colorado Crisis Services at 844-493-8255 together.
What can I do to help you feel more supported?
When is the best time to check in with you again?
Frequently Asked Questions
Does talking about suicide or asking someone if they feel suicidal encourage suicide attempts?
No! Talking about suicide provides the opportunity for communication. When we share our fears and struggles, their effects are diminished. The first step in encouraging a person to live involves talking about those feelings of hopelessness they are experiencing.
A simple inquiry about whether the person is intending to end their life can start the conversation. However, talking about suicide should be carefully managed and providing resources is important. If the person has expressed a definitive plan to you on how to end their life and they have the means to carry out the plan, you should immediately call 911.
What mental health subjects are too sensitive to talk about with my LGBTQ+ loved one?
It is essential to talk openly about mental health to overcome the many myths about it. There are no subjects too sensitive to talk about. Conversations about mental health combat fears that prevent people from reaching out in the first place.
Currently, too many people are not receiving the treatment they need. In turn, their poor mental health can lead to suicide. One research study found that over 90% of people who die by suicide had existing symptoms of a behavioral health disorder.
What causes more LGBTQ+ folks to experience mental health issues than their straight counterparts?
Many in the LGBTQ+ community face discrimination, prejudice, denial of civil and human rights, harassment, and rejection. These injustices can lead to new or worsened behavioral health symptoms, particularly for those who possess other intersecting and marginalized racial, gender, or socioeconomic identifies. You can show support for the LGBTQ+ people in your life by starting a conversation with them about mental health.
How can I be the most supportive to my LGBTQ+ loved one?
Although we know you care about and support your LGBTQ+ friends and family, our implicit biases can cause us to act in a discriminatory or disrespectful manner without being aware of it. To better support the LGBTQ+ people in your life, educate yourself. Learn about LGBTQ+ history and identities, and the issues currently impacting the LGBTQ+ community. This will help you better understand their life experiences and engage in a more meaningful and impactful conversations.
Everyone needs support, whether it is from a friend whose shoulder we can lean on or a clinician who helps us work through trauma from our past. All it takes to support the mental health of your LGBTQ+ friends and loved ones is a little kindness: Be present, make sure they know that you are there for them, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you notice they are going through a hard time.
What can I do to break the stigma around mental health in the LGBTQ+ community?
Talk about it! No one is immune to mental health problems. People at all levels of social, occupational, and economic status can experience a mental illness. Is this surprising? It should not be. After all, research shows that approximately 40 percent of the LGBTQ+ population will experience a behavioral health issue in their lifetime.
How can I talk to my LGBTQ+ loved one about getting professional help?
Talking about mental health issues often makes people uncomfortable, and although mental illness can affect anyone, these disorders are treatable. As more people talk about these conditions and share their stories, the easier these conversations will become. You will find a list of resources on this page to help connect someone (or yourself) to professional help.
What if someone talks to you about their mental health?
Emphasize that you care and want to listen. Let them know you are available any time they want to talk or text. Let them finish their sentences and complete their thoughts without interrupting. After they have finished, you can and should respond.
Avoid being judgmental. Do not tell them they are being weird or crazy; it is not helpful at all.
Take them seriously. Try not to respond with statements that minimize how they are feeling or what they are going through, such as, “You’re just having a bad week,” “You need to toughen up,” or “I’m sure it’s nothing.”
If you are concerned for their safety, say so. Ask if they have thoughts about hurting themselves or others.
Make yourself available to talk again if needed. While it can be a big relief for someone to share something, they have been keeping secret, mental health struggles do not go away overnight or after one conversation. Let them know they can reach out to you again if they are having a tough time.
Do not turn what you have been told into gossip. If someone is talking to you about their mental health, it was probably tough for them to work up the courage to confide in you and you should respect that by honoring their trust in you.
If you do not understand what you have been told, do some research. Make sure that your information is coming from reliable sources like government agencies and mental health organizations.
Finally, mention that your willing to help them find useful resources such as support groups, educational websites, or a mental health professional if they are looking for one. Remember, there is a list of resources on this page.
Colorado Crisis Services
coloradocrisisservices.org • 844-493-8255
Colorado Wellness Recovery
Gay & Sober
National Domestic Violence Hotline
thehotline.org • 800-799-7233
National Eating Disorders Association Helpline
nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support • 800-931-2237
translifeline.org • 877-565-8860
Transgender Center of the Rockies
transgendercenteroftherockies.org • 303-761-0200
thetrevorproject.org • Trevor LIfeline: 866-488-7386
True Center for Gender Diversity – Children’s Hospital
United States Department of Veterans Affairs – LGBTQ+ Resources
patientcare.va.gov/LGBT • Veterans Crisis Line: 800-273-8255 (Press 1)
How to Have the Talk Media Toolkit
Resources for sharing How to Have the Talk and promotional materials