Palette Magazine

Battling Depression in the LGBT Community

Barbara Pollak-Lewis

There’s no question that depression is a major heath issue in America. According to the National Institute of Health’s most recent estimates, nearly 7 percent of adults suffer from at least one depressive episode a year. But among the LGBT community, depression is an even more prevalent problem. “Some research indicates that the LGBT population is more than twice as likely to have some form of mental illness, which includes depression, anxiety and substance abuse,” says Jose A. Cruz, MD, a psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach. “More concerning is that the LGBT population is three times more likely to try to commit suicide.”

A lot of variables factor into that high rate. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health noted that discrimination almost certainly plays a role.

Though things have improved in some areas of American life in recent years, discrimination and bias against the LGBT community is still widespread. And this can lead to a host of mental health issues. In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness says these problems can sometimes start early in life, with rejection from friends or family sowing the seeds of long-term conditions.


Warning Signs

Regardless of the causes, it’s crucial to be aware of any signs of depression in yourself or loved ones, and then to seek out the necessary treatment before the situation spirals out of control.

Some symptoms of depression include changes in weight, appetite or sleep patterns; having no interest or concentration at work; an inability to feel pleasure; feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness; and thoughts of suicide or death.

“Major depression is diagnosed when more than five of these symptoms are present for two or more weeks,” says Samir Sabbag, MD, assistant professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. “However, if someone is experiencing several of these symptoms at the same time and they are present for several days, they should seek help from a mental health provider to rule out depression.”


Getting Help

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available. Start by asking your doctor or trusted friends for a reference to a good psychiatrist. Therapy and prescription medication are key to righting the ship.

In South Florida, the medical community is well-positioned to help. The new website was designed to connect members of the transgender community with informed doctors and specialists who are sensitive to their needs, and it launched in Miami and New York City. Mount Sinai Medical Center has a psychiatric emergency room and numerous other resources to assist those with depression. The University of Miami Health System has psychiatrists who specialize in the mental issues that affect the LGBT community. Dr. Sabbag also suggests checking with the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists at and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association at

“Many LGBT people feel uncomfortable coming out to their doctors or other health care providers, but making sure your doctor knows about you will help them provide the appropriate treatment,” adds Dr. Sabbag.

Get Tested, Get Help

Think you might be suffering from depression? Visit the Mental Health America page and take a screening test.