Mental Health and Coming Out

“I’ve never met a gay person who regretted coming out – including myself. Life at last begins to make sense when you are open and honest.” – Ian McKellen

Coming out can be an incredibly transformative process allowing the individual to finally be their true and authentic self, whether that is in regard to their sexuality or gender. It can help you to find your people, become the person that you always wanted to be and fall in love, whether that’s with another person or yourself.

However, coming out can also take its toll on mental health and wellbeing.

“You don’t only come out once,” explains Jon, 30 Wolverhampton, “ coming out is a process that you have to repeat over and over again throughout your life. Every time you meet someone new or are in a new environment, you have to do it all over again….that’s not to say though, that it doesn’t get easier. The key is to take care of your mental health and well-being as part of your journey.”

At Tough Enough To Care, we recognise that seeking support for coming out can be a daunting task for many. Cultural barriers, safety concerns, and fears of repercussions, such as potential custody issues, can make it challenging for individuals to openly embrace their LGBTQIA+ identity. However, drawing from the collective wisdom of the LGBTQIA+ community, we’ve gathered resources to assist you in finding mental well-being on your personal journey.

Managing Anticipation and Anxiety

The anticipation of coming out whether it’s for the first time or the 50th, can spark anxiety about acceptance, workplace dynamics, and religious beliefs. This uncertainty can often be incredibly stressful for the individual. Support systems are imperative in the coming out process. These systems might be friends, family or LGBTQIA+ support groups in your local areas. Alternatively there are text lines that you can contact for help and advice (See the end of this article).

Incorporating mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can also be incredibly helpful to manage stress during this time.

Mindfulness: Teaches about being present and accepting thoughts without judgment to reduce anxiety, manage stress, enhance self-awareness, and build resilience.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): Can help with identifying and challenging negative thought patterns which can help to reframe self-perceptions, develop coping strategies, improve problem-solving skills, and foster supportive networks.

Overcoming Fear of Rejection

Fear of rejection can be paralysing. Sometimes the reactions of others can be disappointing, whilst others prove unexpectedly supportive. Seeking positive coming-out stories and connecting with LGBTQIA+ support groups can help to provide hope and perspective. Online resources like MindOut, The BeYou Project, and Switchboard offer invaluable support.

Addressing Internalised Homophobia

Internalised homophobia or transphobia stems from societal prejudices and can profoundly affect mental well-being. Individuals may experience low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, self-loathing, substance abuse, and social isolation.

Ways of managing internalised homophobia include:

Therapy: Working with LGBTQIA+-experienced therapists for CBT and supportive therapies.

Support Groups: Joining LGBTQIA+ communities for shared experiences and belonging.

Education and Awareness: Learning about LGBTQIA+ issues to combat negative beliefs.

Positive Role Models: Connecting with inspiring LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Mindfulness and Self-Care: Practicing self-compassion and engaging in mindfulness.

Advocacy and Activism: Contributing to LGBTQIA+ rights for empowerment and purpose

Fear of upsetting others

Deciding whether to come out can be a deeply personal and complex decision, especially when considering the potential impact on loved ones. You might worry about upsetting a partner if you’re in a heterosexual relationship, or fear the repercussions on your marriage if you are a man or woman who wants to transition. You might be concerned about upsetting your children, or parents. The desire to live authentically can conflict with concerns about causing pain or confusion to those close to you.

Navigating these emotions requires careful thought and, often, professional guidance to balance your own well-being with the feelings and expectations of others. It’s important to remember that seeking your truth doesn’t negate the love and care you have for the people in your life; it simply underscores the need for open, honest conversations and mutual support.

Organisations like the Proud Trust, The LGBT Foundation can offer help and advice to help support not only your journey, but the journey of others in your life too.

Useful Resources

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