Politics and the LGBTQ Community
November 8, 2022
By Anna McKenzie
Politics and mental health can easily become entangled. In the US, we feel strongly about our views and values in the political realm, and conversations frequently go sideways. As a society, we have a tendency to rely on our circumstances — and our perception of control — to help us feel more secure and satisfied.
However, maintaining your mental health is not about controlling external factors; it’s about being able to cope in healthy ways with whatever life brings.
Embracing positive mental health habits is especially important for the LGBTQ community, who consistently report higher levels of mental health issues than the general population, according to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Political repercussions may cause elevated levels of stress that can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Learning to care for your mental health, regardless of the political atmosphere, is a skill that can help you maintain both your physical and emotional health.
Politics and Mental Health
How do politics affect mental health? On the whole, politics tend to have a negative impact on Americans’ mental health. Based on a 2022 PLOS ONE study, stress related to politics can influence our hormone levels. It can affect baseline levels of cortisol to activate our “fight or flight” response, and actually lower levels of testosterone post-election in those who supported a losing presidential candidate.
Roughly 20% of Americans have reported being harassed online for their political views, and two-thirds say that elections are a significant stressor. Supporters of losing candidates drink more alcohol, and those who have been inundated with political ads are more likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety.
LGBTQ and Politics
The combination of LGBTQ and politics has made certain legislative actions feel disruptive and distressing for many. For example, according to a 2022 study published by The Trevor Project, 66% of LGBTQ youth and 85% of trans or nonbinary youth reported that debates about state laws related to transgender issues negatively affected their mental health.
Mental health in the LGBTQ community is a critical issue. Those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are twice as likely to experience a mental health condition than people whose gender identity corresponds with their birth sex, according to NAMI. Transgender people are four times as likely. Bisexual people may even experience discrimination from within the LGBTQ community for not identifying as either heterosexual or homosexual.
Why Politics Affect Mental Health (and What You Can Do)
No matter which political party you belong to, your sexual orientation, your gender identity, or your attitude toward politics, here are some common reasons why you’ve likely suffered from political stress:
- The issues are personal, but other people are in charge. Feeling out of control can create a sense of helplessness, which may lead to anger, fear, and coping in unhealthy ways.
- The 24-hour news cycle and stream of political advertising can be mentally exhausting. Increased exposure to emotionally-charged issues — dissected in detail for hours — can cause both mental and emotional burnout. Remember, headlines and ads are meant to evoke a strong emotional response.
- It’s easy to overidentify with certain ideologies and start to feel like you are winning or losing. The power struggle of politics often becomes “us” versus “them,” and political rhetoric enforces this combat mentality. The “other side” becomes an enemy rather than a critical counterbalance that keeps our democracy healthy.
But there are ways to keep politics from ruining your mental health. The following are some suggestions:
- Recognize that you have a voice, and even if you aren’t seeing desired change, you are not helpless. The beauty of democracy is that everyone has a voice. Learn how you want to show up in the world and stick to it; you’ll respect yourself as you navigate the issues and feel a lot less helpless.
- Limit your exposure to news and ads. They only add fuel to the fire of your disappointment or dismay. Read one article instead of 10. Watch one broadcast versus leaving the TV on all day.
- Recognize that your identity is separate from an ideology. We are all people, not ideas. You don’t have to feel like you’re winning or losing based on certain legislation or if your party isn’t in charge during the current election cycle.
It’s natural to feel angry, fearful, or disappointed when it comes to politics. The divide between political parties seems to grow wider every day. What matters is how you choose to respond. You can cultivate internal balance and strength, or you can let your circumstances determine how you feel about yourself and the world. If you identify as LGBTQ or are uncertain, it’s especially important for you to guard your mental health and keep political issues from disrupting your sense of well-being.
Find Healing and Balance at Rio Retreat Center
You are not alone in the battle for better mental health. At Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows, we offer workshops designed to help you recover from mental health conditions and substance use issues. For the LGBTQIA+ community, we provide the Coming Home workshop for overcoming past hardship and isolation. This five-day workshop offers opportunities for healing and processing as a group to help you build a stronger base for greater resilience, empowerment, and equality.
If you find yourself dealing with severe mental health symptoms, unable to cope with political stress and life circumstances, please contact our team today. We would love to walk alongside you on your road to wellness.