We like to think of the holiday season as one filled with joy and celebration. But for many members of the LGBTQ community, the holidays can be a source of stress and loneliness due to the lack of acceptance they may feel in their families or social circles, whether for their gender identity or sexual orientation. This anxiety can lead to feelings of depression and isolation that can make it difficult to enjoy the season.
While there are many health disparities faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, mental health is one of the most serious LGBTQ health care issues facing the community, and the holidays often bring this to the forefront.
While focuses on easily-accessible HIV prevention through , we're passionate about all aspects of LGBTQ health and wellness. That's why we have compiled some tips to help members of the LGBTQ community make it through the holidays in a mentally healthy state:
LGBTQ Mental Health
When it comes to LGBTQ patients, mental health is one of the most common concerns for which people seek out help from health professionals. LGBTQ people face discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender in many areas of life, which can materially affect their ability to function and thrive.
For transgender patients who are exploring their gender identity, mental health resources are especially important. It’s essential to find a mental health provider who is supportive and understanding of LGBTQ populations, as many face discrimination not only among family, friends, and strangers but within healthcare settings.
Why Are the Holidays So Hard?
LGBTQ discrimination isn't seasonal -- it happens year-round. But when it comes to the holidays, LGBTQ people sometimes feel even more pressure due to expectations of family togetherness and conformity, traditions that don’t always support LGBTQ identities, and a lack of acceptance of their sexual orientation or gender identity in many social circles.
These added pressures can lead to heavier feelings of isolation or depression for LGBTQ individuals, who may fear being judged or excluded from activities that others may take for granted.
Staying Mentally Healthy During the Holidays
Stay Connected With Your Community
Connect with other members of the LGBTQ community. Reach out to friends, family, your LGBTQ community center, or even online groups or meet-ups where you can talk openly about your shared experiences without fear of judgment. For those who live in rural communities, online support groups can be a great resource to reach out and connect with other members of the LGBTQ community. Having your own sense of community can help provide a safe space where you will be accepted and understood, as well as providing emotional support during the tough times.
Be Mindful of Self-Care
Self-care is especially important during the holidays. Make space for yourself to do activities that bring you joy and manage your stress levels, like meditating, exercising, or engaging in hobbies. Remember that it’s perfectly alright to say “no” if you need a break, and don't be afraid to ask for help when needed.
Take Breaks From Social Media
Social media can often feel like a place for connecting with friends, but scrolling through the holiday celebrations of others can also lead to feelings of loneliness and anxiety. Make sure to take periodic breaks from social media, and if needed, mute or limit notifications for certain apps throughout the holiday season.
Set Boundaries With Family Members
If you think interacting with family members may lead to hurtful comments or conversations that make you feel uncomfortable, it is okay to set boundaries for yourself. You don't have to stay in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Consider talking with family members about the potential for difficult conversations about orientation and gender identity and how to avoid them, or simply limit the amount of time spent together during the holidays.
Don't Lapse On Your Medications
If you are taking regular medications for mental health, it is important to continue taking them even during the holidays. While it may be tempting to take a break from your medications, this can have serious health risks. Be sure to check in with your medical provider about any changes or questions that you have related to medication dosages.
If you're undergoing medical transition with hormone replacement therapy, it is also important to stay on schedule with your hormone therapy medications, appointments with health care professionals, and other transition-related care during the holidays. Missing a dose of estrogen or testosterone could lead to more than just an interruption in your transition progress -- it can have negative effects on your mental health as your hormones get thrown off balance.
Keep PrEP In Mind
, and it's something that should always be kept in mind when having sex with other people—especially during the holidays, when emotions tend to run high! Be sure to talk openly about PrEP usage with any potential partners and ask questions if needed. PrEP2Me can provide more information on PrEP and how it can be used to help protect your health.
Reach Out For Professional Help
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the holidays, it is okay to reach out for help. Don’t hesitate to talk with a mental health professional or make use of any other services that may be available in your area. Many LGBTQ patients may want to seek out gender or sexuality-specific therapies, which could provide more tailored and compassionate care with cultural competence.
PrEP2Me and Central Outreach Are Here to Help
The holidays may be difficult for many of us, but it's important to remember that there are ways to make the most of the season. At , we are dedicated to helping our LGBTQ community stay healthy and safe. We offer a discreet, simple resource for getting your PrEP prescription online and connecting with LGBTQ-friendly healthcare providers. Visit PrEP2Me to learn more and find the resources you need this holiday season.
If you are looking for more ways to stay mentally healthy, can provide resources on LGBTQ-related issues and how to access healthcare in your community. If you're in Western Pennsylvania or Ohio, you can visit us in Pittsburgh, Washington, Aliquippa, Erie, Cleveland Heights, or Columbus.