Taking Care of LGBTQIA Mental Health during Lockdown

The lockdown is hard on everyone. As folks around the world adjust to the new realities of life under quarantine, there are members of LGBTQIA community who are being forced to spend time and share space with family members or others who do not affirm their identities. Below is a list of a few points of why this period is more challenging for the community:

1. Those belonging to LGBTQIA community usually experience stigma and discrimination, both within families and society.

2. The social distancing and isolation is forcing some from LGBTQIA to stay away from their families of choice and their communities, which is bound to be stressful. 

3. Being in unwelcoming or hostile environment must be preventing them from behaving/ dressing the way they relate to and this restriction of self-expression is usually distressing.

4. They often face domestic violence and abuse within their families of origin.

5. The economic impact of the pandemic will hit them too. They may become economically vulnerable with loss of jobs and pay-cuts affecting all.

6. The apathy of the system towards the community also affects their access to relief work and health care.

These factors are bound to lead to stress and worry within those in the community. The prevalence of mental health issues in LGBTQ is often higher.

We have tried to list a few points that can be helpful for their mental health during lockdown time:

1. Be in virtual touch with friends, allies and community

While social distancing should only mean physical distancing, often being away from friends and allies can make us isolate ourselves even more. Take out time every day to connect with your community or close friends to share your feeling and maintain a warm, loving relationship.

2. Be aware of your surroundings

If you are from the LGBTQIA community living with someone who doesn’t affirm or align with your preferences, it can be difficult to contain feelings of anger or distress. However, be cautious in expressing yourself if you fear that the situation might escalate and if there is a possibility of abuse. Do so only in secure environment.

3. Equip yourself

Use this time to understand yourself and your environment. Work towards collecting resources on how you can make your environment more favorable. Educate yourself about your rights and legal help and policy frameworks active in your society for your community. This will allow you to understand your challenges better and prepare better for the future.

4. Use social media

To further a sense of belongingness and bonding, it might be a good idea to connect with online groups which align with your preferences.

5. Take time to disconnect

Take a few hours’ time off from social media, news and connecting with others to pay attention to your feelings and needs.

6. Have a flexible routine

Try to adhere to a routine especially in terms of sleeping, eating and exercising. Allow enough flexibility to accommodate daily requirement or fresh commitments.

7. Be kind to yourself

Practice self-compassion when you are feeling low or unproductive. Allow enough time for rest and relaxation.

8. Its okay to seek help

If you are feeling distressed and are having difficulty with your mental health and well-being persistently, consider reaching out for professional help.

About the Author: Dr Sneha Sharma is a Consultant in Psychiatry and Drug de-addiction. She is MD in Psychiatry from the University of Delhi. Her interests include the mental wellness of marginalized communities and public outreach of mental health services.

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