NAMI California Conference Participants Discuss Mental Health in the LGBTQ+ Community

Stories

Sixty peers and community members attended a Peer Self-Advocacy workshop at the Annual NAMI California Conference held in Newport Beach on August 25, 2017. The topic of discussion: Stigma, self-disclosure and mental health in the LGBTQ+ community. Facilitated by PSA staff, the workshop focused on the similarities and differences of self-disclosing a mental health disability and "coming out" as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The conference room became a “safe zone” as workshop participants shared their experiences. The majority identified as both a member of the LGBTQ+ community and as a person with a mental health disability. Participants supported one another as they discussed stigma and discrimination in both communities. They expressed their concerns about disclosing either identity and the risks it posed to their housing, employment and education.

Many did not know about their legal protections against discrimination. To help them evaluate the pros and cons of disclosing, PSA staff discussed their rights in employment, housing and education. Participants said this knowledge would help them make informed decisions about self-disclosing their mental health disability or their LGBTQ+ identity.

Following the workshop, the high demand for more information about self-disclosure and discrimination was evident. Many attendees planned to share this information with others and suggested presenting this workshop at other locations. One participant requested PSA staff provide this training at their high school, and San Bernardino County’s Cultural Committee expressed interest. By attending the workshop, conference participants gained valuable information about their wellness, recovery and rights.