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IDAHOBIT 2016: Mental Health and Well Being

International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) will take place this year on Tuesday the 17th of May with the theme focusing on Mental Health and Well Being.

The main purpose of this day is to raise awareness of violence, discrimination, and the oppression of LGBTQI communities worldwide. This in turn provides an opportunity to take action and engage with the media, policymakers, public opinion, and wider society. This day also creates a platform for local communities and organisations to mobilise together to celebrate the accomplishments that have occurred over the years for LGBTQI people.

In 1990, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a revised version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) Manual, in which being gay, lesbian or bisexual was no longer considered a psychiatric disorder. However, being transgender currently still remains listed as a psychiatric disorder within the ICD. Together with many other trans activists around the world, we are working to change this. While some form of medical diagnosis is likely to remain necessary to enable trans people to have access to hormones and surgeries, any diagnosis should not be placed within the psychiatric section of the ICD and should recognise and respect that transgender people’s gender identities are equally valid and healthy as those of cisgender (non-trans) people.IDAHOBiT

Sadly, even in Scotland, too many health professionals still see being transgender as a symptom of mental health problems rather than respecting our gender identities. Problems still remain surrounding misinformation about trans issues that hurt trans people’s mental health experiences. Most mental health care professionals have received no training on gender identity and how to be inclusive of trans people.

The minority stress we experience as transgender people can increase our risk of developing depression and anxiety. Experiencing transphobic hate crime or family rejection can have a devastating impact on our confidence and self-esteem. Also, the long waiting times to access NHS assistance to transition leaves many trans people without any emotional support during a crucial highly stressful period in our lives. We need to make society and NHS services more supportive of transgender people so we can thrive rather than struggle to survive.

Mental health support for transgender people which affirms our identity and understands the minority stress we experience is vitally important and needs improving. As trans people we need to feel confident of receiving equal treatment from service providers in order to be comfortable asking for help. Trans people are currently one of the groups in Scotland most at risk of suicide and therefore need to be explicitly included in Scotland’s next suicide prevention strategy. Mental health is a very real and serious issue which has been overlooked for too long. We need action on mental health and fully funded, engaged services that can support people.

Please help us in the following ways:

  1. Share our infographics to improve public awareness about trans people’s mental health and wellbeing.
  1. Encourage any mental health service providers you are in contact with to develop their knowledge and understanding of gender identity diversity and trans people’s needs.
  1. If you know a trans person who is struggling with depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, please reach out to them non-judgmentally and let them know you care about them and respect their gender identity.