There were several side-effects of the nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19, particularly on people's mental health. However, people from sexual and gender minorities already face widespread stigmatization in the community, and being stuck behind closed doors during the lockdown only deteriorated the situation further.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) mentioned that young people from the LGBTQ community are already at a higher risk of mental health issues. The lockdown limited their reach to positive and supportive environments and increased the time they spent with those who have a negative impact on their mental health.
Increased Rate Of Attempt To Suicide
The report mentioned that suicide rates amongst those with at least one accepting adult in their circle are 17 per cent. In contrast, the rate amongst those who do not have anyone accepting their individuality is at a 27 per cent risk of attempting suicide. People from the stigmatized community often seek help from their peers when their family or place of origin does not accept them. They can handle family rejection and social discrimination if they have a supportive peer group.
The youngsters in the community have already been at the receiving end of disproportionate rates of unemployment, family insecurity and homelessness. The COVID-19 induced crisis further rendered them helpless. Due to the shutting down of schools and colleges, young students lost touch with their peers. Though this is not specific to the LGBTQ community, it is well-known and understood that social connections positively impact the psychological health of individuals. LGTBQ members face extreme domestic, social, psychological and financial conditions; therefore, the compulsory closure pushed them to four times higher risk of attempting suicide than their cisgender peers.
Trevor Project, the world's most significant suicide prevention and crises intervention organization for the LGBTQ youth, mentioned in a study that even though the community members had one of the lowest mortality rates due to the virus, they did suffer the consequences. The study mentioned that the community was at higher risk of contracting mental health diseases like depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide. However, these risks became even more pronounced at the onset of the pandemic. It mentioned that now is high time to make societies more sensitive towards the struggles of LGBTQ people and develop more life-saving helplines for them to reach out.
Trauma Faced At Workplace
While a reduced social interaction physically, social media platforms came into the limelight. Particularly those people who faced toxic environments and unacceptance at home took to social media to seek validation. On one hand, where critics constantly targetted social media for spreading rumours, whereas, on the other hand, it has also been instrumental in helping people stay in touch with their peers.
Researchers have pointed out that people belonging to the LGBTQ community have faced extensive traumas at their places. Some have been a victim to 'correctional' rapes, and others' families have tried arranged marriage alternatives to ensure that they do not go on the 'wrong path. Research has shown that amongst LGBTQ people, only one-third of community members receive domestic support and acceptance, while one lot of them are subjected to stigmatization and unacceptance in homes. The final one-third population of LGBTQ people does not even reveal their gender and sexual identities at home unless they are financially stable.
Due to lockdown, several sports centres and extra-curricular activities shut down too. Therefore, the avenues that could provide the stigmatized lot of some equal ground to release their stress were taken away.
Is There A Way To Counter This?
While there is always a way forward to tackle a situation crisis, the execution is not simple enough. Changes need to begin at homes to inculcate a sense of belonging among them. The lockdown provided the families enough time to understand one another in a better way. Therefore, acceptance and inclusion on the home front would significantly reduce the stress, anxiety and fear among LGBTQ and help them look forward to a new way.
Secondly, social media can play a significant role to help one get out of their shell and feel at ease, provided one gets in touch with like-minded and optimist people. During these times of crisis, several conferences and webinars took place on the virtual medium. Reaching out for such mediums that focus on helping people improve their mental health and provide them with alternatives to engage in could help them feel more inclusive.
Engaging in a hobby like gardening, cooking, making art, reading books and indulging in workouts can help people infuse rays of positivity in themselves. The feeling of accomplishment by performing such tasks can lead to the release of happy hormones in the body and helps people be more comfortable in their skin.
While everything else like education, socializing and gaming moved online, so did therapy. During the extended stretches of national and state-wise lockdowns, several therapists took to online video conferencing applications like Zoom and Google Meet to cater to their clients. This was lesser time consuming and helped both ways to the counsellors and the people seeking help. Even though the lockdown brought in several restrictions and unintendedly affected people's health, the motive was to curtail the spread of the virus.
The lockdown also gave people enough time to introspect, learn new things, become more accepting in society, and unlearn past beliefs and adapt to changing times. Another study had mentioned that young queer adults who face parental and familial rejections are six times more likely to suffer from depression and eight times more likely to attempt self-harm. Physical distancing measures had also unintendedly led to difficulty in reporting abuse at home, including sexual abuse.
Worsening the existing situation was the downward spiral of financial stability amongst people from the LGBTQ community. Since the maximum transgender population thrived on daily wages, the lockdown left them struggling to secure two square meals a day. A report by the Federation of Indian Council of Commerce and Study (FICCI) mentioned that people with non-conforming gender identities face discrimination at cultural, social and healthcare places. Thus, the COVID-19 crisis put them on the far end of receiving aid in health and mental well being.