The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community around the world often find themselves having to deal with general stigmatisation as well as the inability to access healthcare appropriately.

Global organisations have gathered data regarding this matter and the long-term mental health effects it has on this community.

Malaysian MOH makes a change

After meeting with several activists and members of the civil society, the Ministry of Health has promised to remove references to the LGBT community in its highly controversial video competition targeting adolescents.

“They basically agreed to replace the term gender confusion with gender and sexuality, and also drop any references to the LGBT community,” said transgender activist, Nisha Ayub.

Representatives from the Malaysian AIDS Council also attended the meeting in Putrajaya. “I was so honoured to be a part of this meeting as they were genuinely asking for my input from the community’s perspective in each of the changes made in the video competition,” expressed Ayub.

She continued to say that other ministries could learn from the quick and respectable actions of the Ministry of Health in dealing with this issue.

Barriers in healthcare worldwide and how to improve it

Previously, LGBT individuals have frequently reported concerns over fears of discrimination or stigmatisation when seeking healthcare for themselves, their children or their partners. Healthcare requirements for this community often differ from heterosexual patients in terms of treatment options for mental health needs, tips for avoiding or treating sexually transmitted diseases and other aspects.

Addressing these distinctive needs necessitates improved engagement at the patient, partner, and clinician levels and attaining appropriate and sensitive care is reliant on the exchange of honest, open and meaningful information and communication from all parties involved.

A project organised by Healthwatch Nottingham and Healthwatch Nottinghamshire documented negative healthcare experiences members of the LGBT face regularly and its long-term effects on them.

“The data collected for this report shows that both negative and positive experiences can have a significant and long term impact, not only on the way that a particular service, and other health services are perceived and accessed, but also personally on the individual,” said Michelle Livingston, Healthwatch Nottinghamshire’s executive chair.

Other research in England has also found that one in ten health and social care staff directly involved in patient care have seen colleagues express the belief that someone can be ‘cured’ of being lesbian, gay or bisexual. A quarter of LGBT health and social care staff have been victims of bullying and abuse in the last five years.

Besides that, nearly six in ten health and social care staff don’t think sexual orientation is relevant to healthcare. Healthcare experts have called for these issues to be address, training and education to be provided to healthcare personnel and change to be implemented to avoid further restrictions to healthcare.

Mental health compromised

It’s no secret that the healthcare needs of the LGBT community largely involve mental health support including tackling vital issues such as suicide. With the increase in discrimination or the inability to provide appropriate care, countries have started developing other avenues for the LGBT community to seek treatment for numerous mental health issues.

April this year saw the availability of services for transgender Singaporeans in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). Interestingly, it is the only public hospital in Singapore to have a team treating this community where they offer psychiatric treatment and psychological counselling for those with gender dysphoria.

The LGBT community’s access to mental health in Scotland has also been reported on multiple times. A member of the LGBT Youth Scotland, Blair spoke about his experience saying, “I went to CAMHS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services}, for my mental health issues, and I slowly explained it to them, and I said I broke up with an ex, and I was LGBT and they were LGBT. They were like, 'well that’s the problem, that’s why you’re feeling this way'.”

He continued, “I was meant to go back and, even then, they’ve been cancelling and saying 'oh, go access somewhere else'. But there is nowhere else.” MIMS

Read more:
Malaysia's MOH hosts controversial video contest to address sexual health amongst teens
The challenges of treating transgender patients
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