chapter  12
Visualising mental health with an LGBT community group: method, process, theory
Pages 17

Researching LGBT mental health in a community setting Studying the mental health of lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgendered (LGBT) people is not a straightforward issue. In recent years there has been a growing acknowledgement that some LGBT people suffer from high levels of mental distress, including anxiety disorders, mood disorders, suicide and self-harming behaviour, as well as substance misuse problems, and that this is related to elevated levels of discriminatory practices including physical and verbal abuse (King et al., 2003a; Warner et al., 2004). Yet, because of the socio-medical origins of ‘homosexuality’ that led to the pathologising of same-sex activities and the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness, there is a well-placed resistance within LGBT communities to associate with psychological and psychiatric practices. The legacy of pathology is difficult to shake off and studies have pointed to the homophobia and heterosexism that still exists within the mental health services (e.g. McFarlane, 1998). A qualitative account of the experiences of LGB people who had accessed mental health services noted problematic encounters that ranged from ‘instances of overt homophobia and discrimination, to a perceived lack of empathy around sexuality issues by the clinician’ (King et al., 2003b: 3). Transgendered people have their own ongoing battles as ‘gender identity disorders’ are still classified within DSM IV TR (APA, 2000), thus their identity status is considered one of mental illness, and despite political lobbying psychiatrists still regulate gender reassignment processes (Johnson, 2007a).