Wellbeing and self-care beyond Pride month

30 June 2022

June is Pride month, and it's a time to celebrate and reflect for the LGBTQ+ community. It's important to look after your wellbeing, not only during Pride month but at all times throughout the year.

UCL Quad bathed in Pride month colors

Pride month celebrating the LGBTQ+ community ends today. Talking about self-care attitudes and practices to improve your mental health and wellbeing as an LGBTQ+ person however isn’t over and remains something important to do. LGBTQ+ individuals continue to experience a variety of mental health struggles partly because of the stigma, discrimination, and smear campaigns they continue to face 50 years after the first pride march in London.

The social exclusion, isolation, and rejection as well as the phobia (bi, homo, and trans) and even denial of their civil and human rights that LGBTQ+ persons continue to face have left many still feeling unsafe and caused many others to suffer anxiety, depression, eating disorders, low esteem, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts – among other mental health problems.

In their blog last June on Pride month, UCL student Anjali discussed how “realising and accepting their bisexuality had been a turbulent process for them and revealed that it took a long time for this reflection to go from a subconscious awareness to a conscious struggle.” Anjali showed that, like many LGBTQ+ individuals, ‘once they realised that the label of ‘bisexual’ felt comfortable to them, they wanted to freely express themself to their family and friends but when they faced family members who weren’t accepting and friends who didn’t quite understand their struggle, they felt alienated.’

Anjali confessed that they constantly second-guessed themself, suffered repeated moments of crisis and feelings of imposter syndrome but that they gradually became reassured that such feelings are only born out of compulsory heterosexuality and heteronormativity. Like Anjali, it is important for other LGBTQ+ individuals to learn more about the myriad social and mental health challenges they face, especially if they are to achieve a sense of community and belonging, feel free to self-accept and self-express, increase their self-confidence, and improve relationships with their friends and family.

For the LGBTQ+ community, making mental health a priority should be a constant and not something that only happens during ‘Pride month’. It is important therefore to learn about resources that are available and steps that can be taken to remain emotionally and mentally healthy. Anjali had offered some specific ways in which LGBTQ+ persons can take care of their mental wellbeing as well as some useful resources, and these are restated below.

Coming out and putting safety first

Celebrating your identity, during pride month but also at other times of the year, can feel like a necessary practice to being “successfully” LGBTQ+. However, expressing oneself is incredibly personal and subjective and while the desire to openly express and be ‘true’ to yourself can feel deeply urgent, keeping your identity hidden from some, or from all, is completely valid and sometimes necessary. It is important to not feel that you are not being true to yourself if the important people in your life do not know your identity. As important as being LGBTQ+ may be to you, there should be no pressure on you to be open about it.

This is particularly important if your personal safety and wellbeing could be threatened by coming out. Remember that it is very likely that you will reach a point in your life where you can be completely open but financial and physical dependency on others can greatly hinder this. Living with family who aren’t accepting or refuse to give you space can be burdensome. Taking steps to censor your LGBTQ+ identity and/or distance yourself from these people is important and valid. At some point you should have the means to support yourself more fully and be more comfortable in your LGBTQ+ identity.

LGBTQ+ safe spaces

Once you realise that you are LGBTQ+, seeking a safe space to talk about your experience and meet like-minded people can be very helpful. However, contradictory discourses and beliefs in the community can lead to exclusion and discrimination within such safe spaces. At times it can feel like you must participate in any LGBTQ+ specific space you come across, but always remember to put yourself and your comfort first if you are made to feel insecure or doubtful. You will have an opportunity to meet people that make you feel valid and don’t expect anything from you.

Unlearning and re-learning LGBTQ+ self-care

Years' worth of internalised biases, heteronormative standards, restrictive gender binary standards, and compulsory sexuality which restricts those on the asexual spectrum: it can all lead to an unhealthy perception of your LGBTQ+ self. It’s vital to take time to reflect and identify thought patterns and processes which may subconsciously take place in your mind, but don’t align with your values and knowledge as an LGBTQ+ individual. This can allow you to gain new perspectives and deeper levels of self-acceptance and understanding, helping you and those around you.

LGBTQ+ People of Colour: alienation

For those who experience exclusion and alienation due to their race or ethnicity, LGBTQ+ discrimination adds a layer of inner conflict and mental turmoil. Many LGBTQ+ specific spaces can dismiss queer people of colour and the role they play in LGBTQ+ history, as well as overshadowing LGBTQ+ narratives which come from people of colour (POC).

If you are an LGBTQ+ person of colour and feel that you are unable to voice your thoughts and experiences of LGBTQ+ struggle because of this, don’t feel guilty about seeking POC safe spaces. While we often feel obligated to try to belong to any LGBTQ+ social group we find because they feel so rare, don’t settle for a negative environment. Instead, continue to seek out safe and supportive spaces.

Resources and organisations for support

LGBTQ+ Mental Health & Wellbeing Support Services and Hotlines

LGBTQ+ Resources for Education and Understanding

Support Networks and Resources at UCL

How UCL Student Support and Wellbeing can help

If you need support or just advice. Make an appointment with one of our caring advisers. You can ask to speak to an LGBTQ+ adviser if this is what you would like. UCL remains open for current students across the summer period.