A new survey from the queer wellness website OutLife shows that the COVID-19 quarantine is negatively affecting queer people’s mental health. The negative impacts were most pronounced for women, trans people and people of color.
The survey asked 2,333 LGBTQ Facebook users about their depression, anxiety, loneliness and experiences with self-harm and abuse during the lockdown. In almost all cases, the respondents said their mental health had worsened since the start of quarantine.
Overall, nearly 80 percent said that quarantine had negatively affected their mental well-being. Additionally, the amount of people rating their mental health as “poor” or “extremely poor” nearly doubled from 34 percent before the lockdown started to 61 percent during the lockdown.
“Honestly don’t think my mental health has ever been worse than this,” one respondent named Freyja wrote. “I’ve been experiencing semi-frequent suicidal ideation which is not usual for me and before lockdown I hadn’t had a panic attack for months but now I have them every few days.”
The number of people who felt depressed “very often” or “every day” rose from 24 percent to 43 percent, those who experienced anxiety “very often” or “every day” rose from 34 percent to 50 percent and people who regularly suffer from loneliness increased from 21 percent to 56 percent.
While the number of people experiencing self-harm had a lower increase of only three percent, 46 percent of all respondents experienced an interruption to their medical access as a result of the lockdown which includes access to therapy, regular medical visits and other managed care.
Nearly half (44 percent) also expressed a reduction in exercise and 33 percent reported an increase in alcohol use, something which can negatively affect mental health.
Interestingly, those who reported “never,” “sometimes,” or “often” feeling negative aspects of mental health actually experienced reductions in how often they experience depression, anxiety, loneliness, and self-harm.
While statistics have long shown that LGBTQ people face increased rates of mental health issues, mainly due to societal queerphobia, the quarantine has exacerbated the issue by isolating queers in their homes, locking closeted individuals in houses with their unaccepting parents, reducing queer people’s access to mental healthcare and social support networks, and also creating worries about money while many non-essential businesses remain shutdown.
Psychologists have already called mental illness “an epidemic within the coronavirus pandemic.” While raising awareness of the issue is an important step, the survey’s author says the decline in mental health is likely to have effects that last years after the quarantine ends.
“It’s important that we future proof our [mental health] support systems to make sure we can better respond to those who need it,” said Ian Howley, the Chief Executive of LGBT HERO, the parent organization of OutLife. “It’s our recommendation that we build these support systems now rather than later.”