Prejudice. Stigmatization. Discrimination. Harassment. Victimization. Trauma. Unfortunately, individuals in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) community encounter these challenges more frequently than their heterosexual counterparts. It is important to discuss how Emotional Support Animals can help LGBTQ+ individual’s find strength.
Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation do not cause or equate to mental illness. Research shows that the chronic stress associated with harassment and discrimination makes sexual and gender minorities vulnerable to suicide and other health problems.
Our mental health affects how we function in every aspect of life; that’s why it is so important to take care of ourselves. Individuals in the LGBTQ+ community are at an increased risk of developing a mental illness such as anxiety or depression. Additionally, the stigma surrounding mental illness can prevent people from seeking treatment.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, between 38-65 percent of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation. LGBTQ+ individuals are almost three times more likely than heterosexual individuals to experience a mental health condition such as major depression, an anxiety disorder, and substance misuse.
A valuable aspect of belonging to the LGBTQ community is that it can be a source of strength and cause you to develop a strong sense of pride and resiliency. With it also comes unique challenges.
Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.
The minority stress theory states that “difficult social situations create a state of chronic stress that leads to poor health outcomes for LGBTQ adults.” This theory highlights the impact that minority stress has on the psychological well-being of the LGBTQ+ community.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but the most significant challenges that individuals face when coming out can include: loss of or substantial changes to relationships, dismissive behavior, victimization, prejudice and discrimination, and even hate crimes.
Experiencing continuous discrimination, rejection, harassment, and oppression can cause chronic stress leading to a feeling of stigmatization. This stress burden places LGBTQ+ patients at risk of developing a mental health illness and health disparities.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, “many LGBTQ people have reported experiencing stigma and discrimination when accessing health services, leading some individuals to delay necessary health care or forego it altogether.” This shouldn’t be the case, but it is the sad reality for many who need help.
Emotional support animals are becoming increasingly popular among people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community. Animals have gained a lot of traction as a holistic accompaniment to treatment plans for those with mental illnesses.
An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is a type of Service Animal that helps manage mental health disability symptoms. Emotional Support Animals offer attention, affection, and companionship, which may relieve common symptoms of mental health struggles (such as anxiety and depression). Emotional Support Animals are an excellent, holistic non-medical intervention for combating challenging mental health conditions. Depression, Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and many other conditions show significant improvement from the loving companionship of a pet.
Many struggling with suicidal ideation feel their absence won’t matter and that their loved ones are better off without them. The simple act of caring for an animal’s day-to-day needs can be an effective distraction from overwhelming thoughts. Having someone who depends on them for food, water, and exercise may help individuals overcome ideas that their life is insignificant.
Emotional Support Animals and Psychiatric Service Dogs can make a big difference in an individual’s life. Read more here for a comprehensive look at how Service Animals help in the case of suicide prevention.
The discrimination and mental health issues that LGBTQ+ people face can make life more stressful than it needs to be. Adding an emotional support animal (ESA) to your life can help you combat these problems, making you happier and healthier overall.
When people don’t feel like there’s a place to exist safely in the world, they can conclude that they shouldn’t exist. Being on the receiving end of prejudice and harassment can lead to heightened stress and poor mental health outcomes.
ESAs provide a non-judgmental, listening ear and allow you to express yourself freely without fear of embarrassment or judgment. Emotional Support Animals can offer the support and companionship needed when figuring out how one’s experience of sexual orientation and gender identity is related to mental health.
An ESA can help alleviate the anxiety and stress that might occur when someone is dealing with discrimination from others due to their gender identity. They help to reduce stress by providing comfort and companionship. Studies have proven substantial benefits between interacting with pets and improving mental health. Contact with a friendly, domesticated animal lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels and raises endorphins which can aid in lessening symptoms of loneliness, anxiety, stress, and depression. In addition, petting and cuddling animals help put us in a state of automatic relaxation.
Plenty of research supports the connection between the brain’s four main happiness chemicals and positive boosts in our mood. Increases in our serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphin levels can be achieved through diet, exercise, and physical connection. This is why petting an animal can benefit those who are feeling despondent.
Pet therapy extends beyond simply petting, though. It draws on the connection between the animal and the owner. Our bond with them is also said to boost our self-esteem. Increases in confidence can help us reach out for help when we’re down rather than suffer in silence because we don’t feel worthy.
Many people with mental health issues suffer from depression and anxiety, which can be made worse by a lack of support. An emotional support animal is a living creature that gives you unconditional love and affection. Having an ESA to care for can go a long way toward easing feelings of depression or social isolation.
According to Mental Health America, nearly 1 in 4 adults experience mental illness yearly, and more than half of these cases go untreated. Having a therapy dog or cat doesn’t magically cure mental illness, but as Michael A. Friedman, M.D., chief of psychiatry at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College said: A pet can be therapeutic because it provides unconditional love. Studies have shown that animals can help people with mental health issues feel less lonely and isolated.
Dogs (in particular) can pick up on changing emotions. By reading human body language, they may be able to not only empathize with our changing moods but learn our quirks and mannerisms when we’re feeling down.
Considering the mental health disparities that exist due to minority stress and stigmatization of LGBTQ+ individuals, implementing an Emotional Support Animal is a solid first step in improving an LGBTQ+ person’s outcomes.
The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!
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