MENTAL WELLBEING AND TRANS PEOPLE
Transgender people are more likely to experience mental distress due to the social disapproval and discrimination that they encounter.
Research in the areas of employment, health provision, social exclusion and hate crime indicates that transgender or trans people (people who don’t conform to the traditional division of male and female) experience higher levels of discrimination, harassment and violence.
Consequently, transgender people are at a greater risk of depression, self-harm and suicide. A 2007 survey of 872 transgender people found that 34% of respondents had considered suicide. This is considerably higher than the general population.
Many transgender people have experienced:
- A lack of understanding from family, friends, employers, medical professionals and others
- Difficulty in finding work or retaining it once their background becomes known to others
- Rejection by family and friends
- Transphobic comments
- Violent intimidation on the streets and outside their homes
- Being stared at or laughed at when out shopping
- Bullying and name-calling
“The main issues that affect the mental wellbeing of trans people are related to discrimination,” says Ady Davis, a psychosexual therapist with the North-East Gender Dysphoria Service.
As a result of discrimination, transgender people can have conflicted and confused feelings. The conflict may lie within themselves. For example, if their transgender status goes against their religious beliefs.
The conflict may lie in their relationship with the people around them. Their parents, school or workplace may send the message that people expressing themselves in the opposite gender wouldn’t be tolerated. There’s also wider discrimination from society.
“Some trans people,” says Davis, “can’t do everyday activities such as going shopping without getting stared at, attracting comments, having their self-esteem knocked, or experiencing violence on occasion.”
“When you put them together, all these difficulties can have a massive impact on mental health,” says Davis.
“Trans people may isolate themselves, and they may experience feelings of depression, suicide or self-harm. For example, they may mutilate their bodies by trying to remove the parts they’re not happy with, such as their breasts or penis. They may also start using alcohol or drugs as a way to escape.”
WHEN TO ASK FOR HELP
You may be questioning your gender, or you may feel that you should be the opposite gender, or you may feel that you don’t have a gender.
“If this is a temporary doubt that lasts no more than a few months, it may be something you resolve yourself,” says Davis. “But if your feelings of gender discomfort are consistent, you can get support that can help you feel more comfortable with your gender identity.”
The first step is to see your GP. You’ll then be referred directly to a gender identity service or to the local mental health service. Many services provide help not just to the people directly affected, but also to their families.
You may prefer to get in touch with local support groups. To find groups in your area for transgender people and their families, contact any of the organisations listed in the Support pages of the website.
If you think that you’re depressed, or you’re having thoughts of self-harm or suicide as well as discomfort about your gender identity, get help immediately. Either contact your GP or helplines such as those listed in out helpline pages for confidential, non-judgmental emotional support.
WHAT TYPE OF PSYCOLOGICAL THERAPY IS AVAILABLE
Treatment depends on the individual’s needs. “For example, someone may want to express a female side but fear of telling a partner is preventing them,” says Davis. “In this case, a therapist would help the trans person to express those feelings, and to work out how they would be accepted in the relationship. The therapist may talk to the partner as well. If they accept it, that may be enough.
“All types of treatment generally aim to get someone to a point where they feel more content in their gender,” says Davis.
EMOTIONAL SUPPORT FOR TANS PEOPLE
As a result of discrimination and prejudice, many trangender people feel isolated. Meeting other transgender people and realising that you’re not alone can boost your confidence. Please look at our Support pages to find information on some sources of support. Also Focus: The Identity Trust run two support groups for people diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Please feel free to contact us regarding how to access support using the contact information.
FURTHER INFORMATION: NHS UK CHOICES WEBSITE: CLICK HERE
TRANS MENTAL HEATLTH STUDY
by the Equality Network 2012
This research represents the largest survey of its kind in Europe, providing ground-breaking data on trans people’s mental health needs and experiences, explored in the context of daily life, social/support mechanisms and when accessing healthcare and mental health services. Central here was an exploration of how the process of transitioning (social and/or medical) impacts mental health and wellbeing. The research was unique in its exploration of both the positive and negative impact that being trans has on mental health and wellbeing.