Sexuality and mental health

November 11, 2021
Asifa Rapaiee

About the author: Gemma has worked with schools and colleges to conduct research studies on stress related to academic activities and exam depression.

This article covers:

  • What is Sexuality?
  • Sexuality and mental health
  • With whom or where to get support?

What is Sexuality?

Sexuality refers to a person’s sexual feelings towards other people. This is often also referred to as sexual orientation, which describes whether a person is attracted to the same sex or a different sex. It is not about who you have sex with or how often you have sex.

Sexuality is something that is highly personal for most people. If you are not sure about your sexuality, that’s okay. It can take time for you to understand this about yourself.

Sexuality can also change over time.

There are different terms used to describe sexuality or sexual orientation. These include:

  • Straight – attraction to the opposite sex.
  • Gay– a man’s attraction to the same sex.
  • Lesbian– a woman’s attraction to the same sex.
  • Bisexual– attraction to more than one sex or gender. Some people might prefer the term Pansexual, which means attraction to different types of people, not depending on sex or gender identity.
  • Asexual– not having an attraction to anyone.
  • Queer– an umbrella term for anyone who is not straight or cisgender, who might not want to take on any specific labels for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

There are many related terms not covered in this article, which you can find in the Stonewall list of terms. To read our information on the topic, you can view our page on LGBTQ+ and mental health and Gender and mental health.

Some people might feel like they don’t fit in with certain labels, which is also okay. Your sexuality is not something that needs to be set in stone.

It’s normal to feel confused about your sexuality, and It can be daunting not knowing how you feel or worrying about how people will react, but sexuality is not a choice. Everyone has the right to be themselves without the fear of judgement.
Sarah- Mindsum Peer Support Worker

Sexuality and mental health

Positive mental health

Embracing your sexuality and being proud of it can have a positive and powerful impact on your mental health. This can help you to feel:

  • More at ease
  • More confident
  • More authentic
  • A sense of relief
  • A sense of community and belonging
  • A sense of freedom for you to express yourself
  • A sense of improved relationships with loved ones

According to research, family acceptance of LGBT young people is associated with greater self-esteem, social support and better physical health among the young people.

Poor mental health

People of any sexuality can suffer from poor mental health.

However, those who identify with a sexuality other than straight can sometimes face certain stressors that can lead to mental health issues. These stressors can include:

  • Personal uncertainty
  • Feeling different from others
  • Feeling afraid to come out
  • Prejudice and discrimination
  • Homophobia
  • Biphobia
  • Rejection
  • Harassment, bullying, victimisation

Research suggests that people who identify as LGBTQ+ commonly struggle with mental health issues such as:

According to a recent research by Stonewall in the UK, people who identified as bisexual were less likely to come out to others due to fear of discrimination. Data also suggested that bi people suffered more with mental health issues, compared to gays and lesbians.

Those who identify as bisexual might be more vulnerable to poor mental health because they can face discrimination both outside and within the LGBTQ+ community.  This might cause feelings of isolation and rejection, as they might not know where to turn.

No matter your sexuality, if you are struggling with your mental health,  it is a good idea to find support as soon as you can.

Your sexuality is a part of you, It doesn’t define who you are. Just be yourself and everything will fall into place.
Sarah- Mindsum Peer Support Worker

With whom and where to get help?

If you are in immediate danger or you are struggling to the point that you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, please call 999 as soon as possible. Here are some organisations who can also help you 24/7 if you need urgent help.

You do not have to struggle alone. Talk to someone you trust and let them know what is going on. They can listen and help you as you get more support. This might include talking to a friend, parent, teacher, or school counsellor.

You can also talk to your GP and let them know what is going on. They will be able to give you support or refer you to the right services for the type of support that you need.

Working with a counsellor or therapist can help you to work through difficult feelings, relationships, and many other challenges that you might be experiencing. You can choose to work with an LGBTQ+ therapist, although not all services can guarantee a match with an LGBTQ+ therapist.

You can book a free initial consultation with a qualified mental health professional through our online service.

If you don’t feel ready to speak to a therapist, you can book a free call with one of our trained Peer support workers, who have personal experience of coping with difficult feelings and are willing to guide and support you.

If you would like to get in touch with organisations that provide support services for the LGBTQ+ community, you can contact:

Gendered Intelligence– a charity led by trans people to increase understanding of gender diversity and to help other trans people (under 25 years old) to live better lives.

LGBT Foundation– a national charity in the Manchester area that offers services and resources for trans people.

Mermaids UK– a charity supporting gender-diverse young people and families.

MindOut– a mental health charity led by LGBTQ+ people to improve the mental health and well-being of other LGBTQ+ people through offering various services, such as peer support advice, support groups, counselling and more.

Stonewall–  a charity that offers help and advice for LGBTQ+ people and their loved ones.

The Proud Trust– a charity that uses guidance and information to help children over the age of 12 years old to answer any questions they might have regarding their sexuality, gender or identity.

List of useful resources

Young Minds

You can read information about sexuality and mental health on the Young Minds website. You can click here to access the link.


You can also read information about LGBTQ+ and mental health on the Mind website. You can click here to access the link.


You can read information about LGBT mental health support on the NHS website. You can click here to access the link.

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