Help not coming for lesbian, bisexual women

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A recent study out of Australia shows that lesbian women, as well as their bisexual and “mainly heterosexual” counterparts, are not seeking out help with mental health issues.

The study, conducted by researchers at five different universities, surveyed 521 same-sex attracted women (SSAW) via an online survey.

“This study improves understanding of the barriers and enablers of healthcare utilisation for SSAW, particularly in relation to treatment for alcohol problems,” read the study as published in the BJGP Open Journal.

While researchers found that same-sex attracted participants were more likely to have higher rates of alcohol and mental health issues than heterosexual women, they also were less likely to seek help and treatment for these issues.

Of particular note was the low incidence of treatment for alcohol abuse. While some 70% of respondents in the 18-25 year old range and who are same-sex attracted drank to excess, a mere 6% accessed treatment. Overall, just 41.4% of those surveyed sought help for alcohol abuse.

Also noteworthy: those who did seek help were more likely to do so if their care was LGBT friendly, and if they were out to their doctor about their orientation.

“Disclosing sexual identity to a regular, trusted GP correlated with improved utilisation of alcohol and mental health treatment for SSAW. The benefits of seeking help for alcohol use, and of accessing LGBT-inclusive GPs to do so, should be promoted to SSAW,” read the study’s conclusion.

Depression and anxiety was also shown to be “significantly higher” for those in the study, especially amongst the bisexual and “mainly heterosexual” respondents.

“Women as a whole encounter barriers to accessing addiction services, which contributes to their seeking help online, but there are compounding barriers for SSAW,” stated the research. “Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people in the US were more likely than heterosexual people to report ‘perceptual’ barriers to alcohol treatment, such as believing they should handle the problem alone, or that the problem was not serious enough.”

The study also noted that there is no data available for transgender or other gender-diverse populations, a noteworthy omission as these groups also have similar attractions and could face similar issues.

One Canadian study, however, did find similar issues surround a lack of care for both transgender and bisexual women.

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