“I was bullied in high school about being gay. I hadn't come out and was struggling with depression. That’s when I saw my first psychiatrist and was put on medication at 13. ”
Your sexuality can play an important role in your identity and sense of self. Sexuality often refers to a person's sexual orientation or preference. Your sexual orientation is who you are emotionally, mentally, and physically attracted to. This may be same-sex (homosexual), male-female (heterosexual) or bisexual orientation (most genders). You may consider yourself gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, pansexual (attracted to people regardless of their gender identity), or you may not be sure of your sexuality.
Sexuality can also refer to a person's capacity for sexual feelings. More than the need to reproduce, sexual drive is an important part of human emotional expression and deep connection with another. It’s not clear whether our sexuality is a result of genetic or hormonal factors, our childhood and parenting, or the society and culture we grow up in. However, exploring your sexuality is normal, healthy, and deeply personal.
Sexuality and mental health
Being supported and safe to explore and express your sexuality can be good for your mental health. It can reduce distress, anxiety, and depression.
Many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) people live happy and rewarding lives, with growing acceptance. However, not everyone's experience is the same. Some people may experience poorer mental wellbeing because of stigma, discrimination, violence, and exclusion.
Your sexuality is central to your self-identity, and not being able to express this is damaging to your sense of self-worth and overall mental health. For some, coming out leads to acceptance and support, but this may not always be the case. If you choose to come out, try to prepare yourself to cope with people’s responses. Many people will support you, but there may be others who don’t.
It can take time for others - especially family members - to understand, adjust, and accept what all this means and learn how to support you. Those around you who do not or cannot accept or understand what you are experiencing may express this in a variety of ways. If you are concerned about the reaction you will receive when “coming out”, have a plan, and choose carefully to whom, how, and when to disclose this news.
It's very important that if and when you do decide to tell people about your sexuality, that you are in a safe environment. If possible, have a nominated support person with you, and choose a comfortable, neutral territory to do this.
Common factors that can affect your emotional health and wellbeing include feeling “different” from other people around you, feeling pressure to deny or change your sexuality, as well as verbal or physical bullying about sexuality. Homophobia or sexuality-based discrimination can make it difficult to enjoy life fully. If you notice that this is affecting your sleep, appetite, concentration, or relationships, it might be time to get some help. There are resources at the bottom of this page that can offer information and guidance.
Seek support from the start
Getting help when mental health problems begin to develop can prevent more serious problems in the future. Some lesbian, gay or bisexual people find it especially hard to ask for help. This might be because of past discrimination by health professionals, concerns about privacy, or difficulty talking to strangers about sexuality. It’s important to find someone you trust to confide in to support you throughout your journey. This might be your doctor (GP) and/or other health professionals who have experience working with sexuality and gender issues. Use the National Health Services Directory to find a health professional near you.
Self-care is important
General self-care can make a positive difference to your wellbeing. Small changes such as improving the quality of your sleep and diet, exercising, and avoiding drugs or alcohol can be really helpful over time. If you’re stressed out, try finding time for enjoyable activities, try to make connections, and spend time with supportive people you trust and who accept you. If you need urgent assistance, contact Lifeline - 13 11 14.
If you have difficulties with family members who do not understand what you’re going through, this does not mean you are not loved or valued. Lack of education and awareness on these very personal emotional issues have only recently started to be addressed. It will take time, patience, courage and effort from those closest to you to change old ways of thinking and behaving.
Try to keep the doors open for honest conversations and questions. Rejection and isolation is painful when our loved ones don't "get us', this will happen sometimes with positive outcomes, but not always. Self-care is critical to help you manage these challenges, and understanding that others will feel whatever they feel. These different reactions and feelings are no one’s fault.
If you feel unsafe around loved ones at any time, and they are not being respectful or are being discriminatory, it is vital to ensure you have a safe support network to fall back on. If anyone is violent or threatens violence, please call 000.
Caring for someone else
It can be difficult seeing someone you care about experience a mental health issue, or struggle with daily life. Sometimes the best thing you can do is listen without judgement, ask what is happening for them and help them to access professional support. At the same time, try to learn more about what they might be going through.
While it’s important to look after your loved one, it’s critical not to forget your own wellbeing. Caring for someone can be rewarding, but it can also be emotionally and physically challenging. Recognising the crucial role that you play as a carer is an important first step.
If you’re caring for someone and need support, but you aren't sure where to start, you can find more information on our carers page.
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).