Bryan Cochran, University of Montana – The Health and Well-Being of LGBTQI+ Individuals

On University of Montana Week:  LGBTQI+ individuals still face many stigmas.

Bryan Cochran, professor of clinical psychology, explores how to bolster their wellbeing to help achieve better health.

Bryan Cochran, Ph.D., is a Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Montana in Missoula. He received his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Washington in Seattle, where he developed a research program in LGBTIQ+ health. He is currently a licensed psychologist in the State of Montana who has published over 40 research articles relevant to LGBTIQ+ people and their experiences.

The Health and Well-Being of LGBTQI+ Individuals

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The mental health establishment has a difficult past when it comes to the LGBTIQ+ community. Although all major mental health organizations have now established guidelines affirming the identities of LGBTIQ+ people, these individuals still face stigma in everyday society, ranging from mild disapproval, to employment or housing discrimination, to victimization and violence.

Stigma, whether felt from one’s community or internalized, translates into health disparities that affect LGBTIQ+ people. Studies have consistently demonstrated that LGBTIQ+ individuals are more likely to experience depression, to have difficulties with substance use, and to have elevated rates of suicidal ideation and behavior.

My research focuses on the risk and protective factors that impact the wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ individuals. Experiencing discrimination and victimization –such as childhood bullying or being kicked out of the family home — elevates the risk of mental health conditions. Structural stigma, or laws that fail to protect LGBTIQ+ people from discrimination, is also impactful when it comes to mental health. Having a supportive adult figure in one’s life, attending a school that has a Gender-Sexuality Alliance, and receiving family support– are all beneficial factors that may buffer against negative health outcomes.

A current trend is for LGBTIQ+ individuals to “come out” at earlier ages. Whether this is due to greater acceptance in our culture than there was a few decades ago, or the ability of social media to connect people with other LGBTIQ+ allies and individuals, a younger age of “coming out” means that youth are exposed to more positive supports, but also potentially to more victimization. Knowing how to bolster the wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ individuals throughout the lifespan will help to eliminate the health disparities that they face.

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