FEATUREDMental Health

The impacts of minority stress on the LGBTQ+ community

Pride Month is a time to highlight the diversity and resiliency of the LGBTQ+ community, and to celebrate the work of those who fought for the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. It is a time for healing, connection, and community-building, but it is also a time to acknowledge how much work still needs to be done and to take action.

Research shows that individuals in the LGBTQ+ community have an increased risk for anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use, and suicide. Lesbian, gay, or bisexual persons are twice as likely to have a mental health condition as a heterosexual person, and transgender persons are four times more likely to experience a mental health condition as cisgender (not transgender) persons.

One possible explanation for the health disparities faced by the LGBTQ+ community is minority stress. Dr. Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW, defines minority stress as “the stressful situations and experiences someone encounters based on their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity.”  These experiences are layered on top of the everyday stressors felt by those in the community at large, leading to long-term, highly elevated stress levels which can cause serious physical and mental illnesses or substance misuse.

Minority stressors can be internal or external, with many individuals experiencing both. External stressors include lack of political or public representation, discrimination, threats of violence, and more. Internal stressors could include feeling lonely or isolated, fear of rejection, the pain of concealing one’s true self, and internalized homophobia.

Minority stress may be even higher for individuals who are gender nonconforming, especially among gay and bisexual men. Research shows that gender nonconformity is strongly associated with experiencing discrimination and other prejudice. This may be because physical expressions of gender nonconformity can make an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity more visible than a gender conforming individual’s would be.

Persons who are experiencing minority stress can utilize stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, regular self-care, and finding an affirmative community to manage their stress. Dr. Powell recommends that persons should seek professional help if minority stress is causing significant sleep difficulties; leading to feelings of continual hopelessness; or harming your relationships with others.

However, it is unfair and impractical to put the burden of addressing minority stress onto members of marginalized communities without working to solve the larger issues at hand. An individualized solution of stress management will not solve the systemic problems that cause minority stress in LGTBQ+ and other communities. We must address the problems at their root and eliminate the stressors entirely.

For many in our community, minority stress is a part of daily life, and it is likely negatively and disproportionately impacting their physical health and mental wellbeing. The broader community must step up and do the work of calling out and dismantling the policies, systems, and ideologies that contribute to minority stress, not just for LGBTQ+ persons but for all marginalized groups. We must work to create social safety (connection, inclusion, protection, and acceptance) for all.

Despite the minority stress that many LGBTQ+ individuals face, the community has a long and proud history of resilience, strength, and joyful celebration. There is still work to do, but there is time, too, to celebrate a community that is thriving in the face of adversity.

And this June, I plan to do both.


If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health challenges, professional help is available. Valeo’s Crisis Center, 400 SW Oakley Avenue in Topeka, is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for walk-in mental health emergencies. In case of a behavioral health crisis, contact 988 or the Valeo 24-Hour Crisis Line at 785-234-3300.


– by Mikki Burcher, Mental Health First Aid Instructor


Valeo Behavioral Health Care



Crisis Services           

400 SW Oakley, Topeka, KS  66606

24 Hour Crisis Line: 785-234-3300


National Suicide Prevention Life Line

Call or text 988 anytime 24/7/365


Shawnee County Suicide Prevention Coalition



Family Service and Guidance Center  (18 and under)

325 SW Frazier, Topeka, KS  66606

24 Hour Crisis Number: 785-232-5005


Healing after Loss to Suicide Group  (HeALS)

Sandy Reams – Group Facilitator