Support for LGBT+ mental health
Mind HK is here for anyone experiencing a mental health problem. But we know that those of us with LGBT+ identities may face extra challenges around getting the right support, and we sometimes have extra needs or concerns.
The tips on this page may help.
Remember that different things work for different people at different times. Only try what you feel comfortable with, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.
Talking to someone you trust
It might feel hard to start talking about how you are feeling. But many people find that sharing their experiences can help them feel better. It may be that just having someone listen to you and show they care can help in itself.
If you aren’t able to open up to someone close to you, reachout to local support, community building and networking groups. See our useful contacts page for other suggestions (see peer support below)
Making connections with people who have similar or shared experiences can be really helpful. This could be other people with mental health problems, or other LGBT+ people, or both.
There are lots of different ways that you can do this.
Find a local LGBT+ community building and networking groups and support groups (or see ‘Useful Contacts’)
- For example, Love Unbounded offers support for bisexual people and the Transgender Resource centre offers community support services
- Workplace groups. Some organisations run LGBT+ networks. For example, HK InterBank is a network of LGBT+ groups across the banking and financial industry providing support for its members and the Hong Kong LGBT Medical Society is a group of LGBT+ medical professionals, among other aims they offer support to their peers..
- Family Groups. Rainbow Families, a community support group connects LGBT+ parents and families.
Try an online peer support community
For example, Mind UK’s online peer support community welcomes LGBTIQ+ people. It offers a friendly, non-judgemental space to talk about how you feel.
If you’re using the internet, it’s important to look after your online wellbeing.
Try a mentoring programme
Some organisations offer mentoring schemes for LGBT+ people. Each programme differs, but having a mentor can help increase your confidence. For example, Pink Alliance runs a mentorship programme to help people navigate the workplace as a member of the LGBT+ community.
Self-care means things we do for ourselves to help improve our mental and physical health.
Internalised homophobia, biphobia or transphobia might mean you struggle to be kind to yourself. But practising self-care can help boost your self-esteem. We have included some ideas below which may help.
Try joining an LGBT+ specific group
This could be anything from a community project to a hobby group. The important thing is to find an activity you enjoy to help you feel motivated. For example, the Tongzhi Literary Group puts on meetings about authors from sexual minorities and The Harmonics are an LGBT+ choir. LGBTQ Meetups is another way you can find such groups.
Volunteering can make you feel better about yourself and less alone. You could volunteer for an organisation supporting the LGBT+ community. Or you could volunteer for any other cause you feel passionately about.
- You can volunteer at LGBT+ organisations like Pink Alliance
- You could volunteer for a sexual health organisation which is supportive of or has close ties to communities of sexual minorities, such as AIDS Concern.
Think about your diet and sleep
Improving your diet and the quality of your sleep can help your mental health. You can find more about this from our pages on food and mood and sleep.
Try to do some physical activity
Exercise can help improve your mood. You can exercise by yourself or you could try joining an LGBT+ sports group. You might like to look up social groups connecting members of the LGBT+ community through sports, fitness, outdoor events. Our pages on physical activity and mental health have more tips.
“I often get asked why I play for a [LGBT+] team… it provides a safe space to play and also it allows me to meet like-minded people in a space that doesn’t revolve around bars and clubs, which felt at the time to be the only way of meeting gay people.”
Try to avoid recreational drugs and alcohol
You might want to use these to cope with difficult feelings. But heavy use of alcohol or drugs can make existing mental health problems worse. It may also contribute to new ones. You can find more information and support from:
- the Hong Kong Jockey Club Drug InfoCentre
- our pages about the mental health effects of recreational drugs.
Look after your sexual health
Sexual health is an important part of your physical and mental health. Poor mental health can contribute to you taking risks with your sexual health. But this can have long-term health consequences. Living with a long-term health condition can also affect your mental health. For example, depression is more common among those of us living with HIV. You can find more information and support from AIDS Concern.
See our page on self-care for mental health problems to find more ideas.
Asking your doctor for help
Your doctor (GP) is there to help you with your mental health as well as your physical health. They could:
- make a diagnosis
- offer you support and treatments, such as self-help resources, talking therapies, and possibly medication (when it is indicated)
- refer you to a specialist LGBT+ mental health service, if one exists near you.
Find out more about how to talk to your doctor in our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem.
Do I have to tell them I’m LGBT+?
Opening up to a doctor about your personal thoughts and feelings isn’t easy for anyone. Being LGBT+ can make it feel even harder. There are lots of reasons to not want to come out as LGBT+ to your doctor when you talk to them about your mental health. And lots of reasons you might feel anxious about what will happen if you do.
You don’t have to tell your doctor that you’re LGBT+ to get their help. But if you do, they might find it easier to get you the right support.
If you do decide to tell them, you could rehearse what you will say first with someone you trust.
What if my doctor is unhelpful?
Unfortunately, you might not get the help you need right away. Bad experiences of healthcare staff can be discouraging. But no matter your background, sexuality or identity, you deserve support.
Specialist LGBT+ mental health services
Some therapists focus on providing mental health support to LGBT+ people. When seeking out support, ask the therapist if their practice has a focus on LGBT+ mental health.
“I needed somewhere where I could be open about being trans and be open about mental health.”
Working with a therapist
Talking therapies involve talking to a trained professional about your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. They can help you manage and cope with:
- difficult life events, such as bad experiences of coming out
- relationship problems, such as rejection from family, friends or your community
- upsetting or traumatic experiences. This could be something recent or something that happened a long time ago
- difficult emotions, such as guilt, sadness, confusion, anger, low self-esteem and internalised homophobia, biphobia and transphobia
- depression, anxiety and other mental health problems
- living with a long-term physical health problem.
Please see our Seeking Help in Hong Kong page to see which mental health professional is right for you and where to find help in Hong Kong.
Your therapist’s identity
Your relationship with your therapist is an important factor in how successful any therapy is for you.
If you would prefer to work with a therapist from the LGBT+ community, it’s best to mention it during your first contact with the service. Unfortunately, not all services will be able to match you with an LGBT+ therapist. One of the LGBTIQ+ services listed in our useful contacts page might be able to help.
But even if your therapist does not identify as LGBT+ themselves, they may still have experience of helping people with similar problems to you.
Getting help for suicidal feelings
If you find you are feeling suicidal you should discuss it with a doctor or your therapist as soon as possible.
If you feel in crisis right now, you can contact one of the crisis support programmes listed on our Find Help Now page. Or you can go to your local hospital’s A&E department.