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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people in the United States often experience tremendous mental health and substance use disparities. High rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidality within the LGBTQ population may originate in “minority stress,” which is comprised of chronic stigma, discrimination, feeling for rejection and being ostracized, and violence. Minority stress operates within cultural institutions and social structures, including health and mental health care systems, and may disproportionately affect gender non-conforming individuals and rural LGBTQ persons

With regard to rural communities, LGBTQ people may face social pressure to adhere to traditional gender roles and norms as well as negative attitudes related to lack of contact with sexual and gender minorities. Victimization — verbal harassment, property damage, and physical assault — is commonly reported by rural LGBTQ people. Some LGBTQ people migrate from rural to urban areas in search of robust LGBTQ community, leaving those who remain in rural areas further lacking in social support. Geographic isolation, insufficient opportunity to socialize with other LGBTQ people, and the perceived need to conceal gender or sexual identities can contribute to mental distress, erode social support, and result in fewer visible LGBTQ role models in rural areas

Rural residents in general, but especially those who self-identify as LGBTQ, report hardship accessing high quality mental health care, often because services are in short supply. The quality of support LGBTQ people can expect from available mental health and substance use treatment providers varies. Clinical providers often lack culturally appropriate training and fail to recognize how minority stress affects LGBTQ people, while the broader setting where services are rendered may lack safeguards to ensure that neither individual nor institutional bias influence care.

Here at Great Lakes TTC, we value inclusion and diversity. We are committed to providing quality mental health services in an affirming environment for all Northern Michigan residents.

***Primary Source: Israel, T., Willging, C., & Ley, D. (2016). Development and Evaluation of Training for Rural LGBTQ Mental Health Peer Advocates. Rural Mental Health, 40(1), 40–62.

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