LGBTQ mental health resources for the holiday season – USA TODAY

While the holiday season can be a joyful time to celebrate with family and friends, late December can also carry stress and bring up challenging emotions, especially for members of the LGBTQ community.
Research has shown there is not necessarily an increase in mental health struggles during the holidays, but the period can exacerbate existing mental health conditions, especially for those without close family or a support system.
Sixty-four percent of people with mental health challenges report that the holiday season makes their conditions worse, according to a 2014 National Alliance on Mental Illness survey, and 24% of people reported the “holiday blues” make their condition “a lot” worse.
Knowing how the holidays can worsen mental health is important for the LGBTQ community. Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults are more than twice as likely as straight adults to experience a mental health condition, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Transgender people are nearly four times as likely to experience a mental health condition than cisgender people, a Transgender Health study found.
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The holidays can be particularly stressful for LGBTQ folks because of varying levels of family acceptance and awareness around gender identity and sexuality, according to Ariel Emmanuel, associate director of training for the Gender and Family Project at the Ackerman Institute for the Family. 
“It can be really hard to go back into a family environment and have to maybe go back into the closet, or be misgendered, or not hear the right name or pronouns,” Emmanuel said.
Interacting with family members that don’t affirm your identity or coming out to loved ones around the holidays can also cause stress, Emmanuel said. 
Family support has a significant influence on mental health, especially for LGBTQ young people. LGBTQ young people who felt high social support from their family reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate social support, according to a 2022 Trevor Project survey.
Some members of the LGBTQ community choose not to go home for the holidays at all, instead spending time by themselves or with chosen family and friends. But for those without those communities, depression and loneliness can be exacerbated during the holidays, Emmanuel said.
“If you don’t have that support system that you feel safe, comfortable and authentic around, it can make it really difficult for you to feel the joy that everyone is feeling, so it feels more sad and more filled with grief,” she said.
Not every mental health tool works for every person, but having a plan for ways to assuage mental health symptoms ahead of the holidays can make a difference, Emmanuel said. For some, limiting time with family or setting boundaries with family members can make the experience more bearable.
“Just making sure that you’re balancing your time with family but then also taking time for caring and coping in the way that feels best and most healthy for you is important,” she said.
When mental health triggers arise, journaling, exercising or meditating can be ways to alleviate challenging emotions and self-regulate, Emmanuel said.
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