Recent research has found that people who identify as transgender tend to experience higher rates of mental health issues than the general population.
Approximately 6.7 percent of the US population suffer from depression, and 18% grapple with anxiety issues.
However, nearly half of all individuals who identify as transgender experience these issues.
More worryingly, over 41 percent of trans men and women are estimated to have attempted suicide.
Why do transgender people suffer so greatly?
According to a study in July 2016, transgender people suffer from higher levels of mental health issues “primarily arises in response to the discrimination, stigma, lack of acceptance, and abuse they face on an unfortunately regular basis.”
Shame and Stigma
The fact that discrimination can cause mental health issues has been studied for decades.
As the American Psychological Association pointed in its March 2016 report:
“for many adults, dealing with discrimination results in a state of heightened vigilance and changes in behavior, which in itself can trigger stress responses—that is, even the anticipation of discrimination is sufficient to cause people to become stressed.”
Stigma and discrimination can alienate individuals to avoid social encounters, shy away from healthcare professional and reach for addictive substances or risk-taking behavior to quell their anxiety and aloneness.
It’s been reported that discrimination, even by medical and mental health professionals, is a common issue for many transgender individuals.
The consequences of not being accepted in social and medical settings can be catastrophic. The Journal of the International AIDS society had this to say:
“transgender populations often experience high levels of both perceived and internalized social stigma, social isolation, discrimination and victimization. Extreme social exclusion and lack of acceptance of transgender populations in different settings diminishes their self-esteem and ability to participate in social events. These situations often lead to symptomatic psychological distress, depression, anxiety and other mental health difficulties among this population. Social victimization may occasionally contribute to poor sexual health and unhealthy use of alcohol among this group.”
Being deprived of a self
According to Psychology Today, rejection and discrimination can impede a transgender’s psychosocial and identity formation.
In Heinz Kohut’s theory, there are three fundamentals to a full formed “self”:
Mirroring: (a caregiver’s accurate understanding of your emotional state.
Idealization (a role model to look up to)
Twinship: Having someone who is like you, who can make you feel less alone in this world.
The problem is that many trans people grow up lacking one or more of these factors.
How acceptance helps
When a transgender person is surrounded by a supportive community, their rates of mental health issues decline.
The environments we find ourselves in has a huge impact on our mental health.
A study found that when families and friends accepted a transgender person, they “had only marginally higher anxiety symptoms and “developmentally normative levels of depression.”
The more understanding each of us have when it transgender people, the better the outcome will be for everyone.