Research shows that LGBTQ people drink more alcohol than the average population. This month Dylan is giving up drinking to draw attention to the mental health of LGBTQ people and the impact of drinking.
A third of lesbian & bisexual women drink three times or more a week compared to 25% of women in general
42% of gay & bisexual men drink three times or more a week compared to 35% of men in general
77% of lesbian, gay & bisexual people drank in the past week compared to 58% of women and 68% of men in general
47% of trans people have problematic drinking
Why are we drinking so much?
For a number of reasons – often LGBTQ people socialise on the bar and club scene, and this may be the first place they explore their sexual and gender identity with others. LGBTQ people also face higher levels of discrimination or harassment, and alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism.
LGBTQ people may not feel included in health messages warning about the risks of alcohol, as they may not be targeted at them. We know that LGBTQ people often find it hard to access healthcare support, for fear of encountering negative attitudes or feeling unsafe to be out about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Many LGBTQ people are not out to their GP’s.
Dylan Morris has done something amazing this month. Having struggled with mental health issues and his relationship with alcohol for years he decided to quit alcohol for a month. He has turned this personal challenge into an opportunity to raise money for MindOut which is phenomenal and a great way to raise awareness. We interviewed Dylan about his decision:
Tell us briefly about this amazing thing you are doing to support your mental health and wellbeing?
So I’ve been struggling with my mental health for a long time, but recognising the link between my depression and my relationship with alcohol was a first step. I tried cutting down, but it didn’t work, and so I decided to pack it in entirely. I decided to do it for charity, because there are countless other young LGBTQ people that are suffering with poor mental health, and I’d like to help them out.
What motivated you to give up drinking for a month?
Alcohol put a strain on my mental health, and in turn my relationship with my partner and my family suffered hugely. I’m doing it for myself, but I’m also doing it for them. I want to make myself better, and in doing so make their lives better, too.
Why did you choose to support MindOut?
I chose to support MindOut because, even though I’m very lucky to have access to tonnes of support, so many young LGBTQ people aren’t. Charities like MindOut are picking up the slack from an underfunded social care system, and they deserve all the support in the world – starting with mine.
Research shows that rates of alcohol and drug misuse in LGBTQ people are 2-3 times higher than for heterosexuals/cisgender individuals – why do you think that is?
I think that alcohol and drugs provide an escape from a world that isn’t too friendly to people like us. It gives us a way to get away from the homophobia and transphobia that we face on a daily basis, and I think it’s a very quick, easy fix to a problem that is endemic in British and global society. Unfortunately though, there are no quick fixes. Abusing alcohol and drugs may seem like a solution, but as I’ve realised (very slowly), they are far more likely to exacerbate the problems that we face.
How has alcohol affected your mental health?
Alcohol is a huge depressant, but combined with medication it’s even worse. Alcohol made me erratic, impulsive in all the wrong ways, and it made me lash out at the people closest to me, who have been there for me through thick and thin. Alcohol even led me, on more than one occasion, to the edge of suicide and I’m already noticing the positive differences without it.
“I think that alcohol and drugs provide an escape from a world that isn’t too friendly to people like us.”
How has it been going so far without drinking?
Working in a pub hasn’t helped, I’ll be honest, but it’s been going really well. I feel healthier, I wake up at reasonable times, I can remember what I’ve said the night before, and I’m seeing life in a far more positive, even-handed way than before. It’s been tough, but my network of support and my amazing partner Fin have been real rocks to help me through it.
What helps you to maintain good mental health?
For me it’s the real basics. I try and get out of bed at the same time every day, get in the shower, and get out of the house as quickly as possible. I’ve fallen at the first hurdle more times than I can count, but the trick is to not blame yourself, and brush off the voice in your head that is firing relentless criticism at you.
Any tips for our readers and supporters?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to depression, and alcohol doesn’t always make it worse, but 999 times out of 1000, alcohol does not make things any better. If you think you’ve got a bad relationship with alcohol, talk to someone. If you can’t, then set yourself goals. My first goal, when I started trying to cut down was a simple one: no drinking alone. Set achievable targets that you know you can hit, and then do it. If alcohol is affecting you negatively, then you can take control of your relationship with it. Also, cherish the people that have stuck by you. That one’s important.
So far Dylan has raised £501.00 for MindOut which is amazing thank you so much!