CHAMPAIGN – Many LGBTQ individuals experience issues such as prejudice and healthcare barriers, contributing to higher rates of mental illness among this community than the general population, according to nurse practitioner Kate Srikant.
Individuals often feel isolated, or that healthcare providers don’t understand their struggles, Srikant says.
Data from the advocacy group Mental Health America shows that in 2020, 4.5% of the U.S. population identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Of this population, 39% reported having a mental illness in the past year.
“These people go through daily struggles, frequently. And if you have to wait so long to get someone to help you take care of your mental health, you know, that can be dangerous,” Srikant says.
The Trevor Project’s 2021 national survey on LGBTQ youth found that 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.
Srikant is co-owner of KP Healthcare, a health clinic in Champaign that is offering free mental health screenings throughout Pride Month to raise awareness about LGBTQ mental health. Screenings assess risk factors and look for symptoms of a mental disorder.
Srikant says screenings can lead to appointments and be a connection to long-term care. Even with screenings, she says there can be hesitation in using these resources.
“I think it can be scary to take advantage of these opportunities when you know that ‘okay, the focus is on me, is this going to be completely confidential, am I going somewhere I’m really going to get help, is this going to be worth it?'” Srikant says.
Overall, Srikant says there needs to be more discussion on mental health in general.
“Mental health is really, really important to us. It’s just as important as physical health. We honestly just want to support everyone in getting the help they need,” she says.