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Transgender people who experience discrimination likelier to have poor mental health

Protective factors, such as support from friends, family, and the community, appeared to mitigate the negative impact of discrimination and stigma.

Transgender people who experienced stigma, including harassment, violence and discrimination because of their identity are more likely to have poor mental health outcomes. Sadly, the study also shows that over half (51%) of transgender people experienced discrimination for being transgender.

This is according to a study from the University of Waikato, via a study involving 1,178 people who completed a national Aotearoa/New Zealand survey. The findings were published in the International Journal of Transgender Health,.

For this study, a team of experts from Waikato, and the University of Otago, assessed the results of the 2018 ‘Counting Ourselves’ survey – a community-based questionnaire of transgender people living in Aotearoa/New Zealand. They specifically analyzed the extent that stigma and discriminatory experiences alongside protective factors such as the support of friends, family, neighbors and communities, are related to the mental health of transgender people in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

The results show that 23% of transgender people had been verbally harassed in public venues, including public transport, retail stores and restaurants for being transgender. Also, more than one-third (39%) had been victimized through cyberbullying.

According to the study’s lead author, Kyle Tan, the findings show that experiences of gender minority stress are strongly associated with mental health, including suicide; and that positive, protective factors appear to act as a buffer against this.

“One quarter (25%) of transgender participants who had high levels of discrimination, harassment and violence, and low levels of support from friends, family and community, had attempted suicide in the last year. However, only 3% of those who with low levels of discrimination, harassment, and violence and high levels of protective factors had attempted suicide. This means that those with lower risk factors and higher protective factors were more than eight times less likely to have attempted suicide,” Tan said.

Principal investigator Dr. Jaimie Veale added that these mental health inequities mean that transgender people should be a named priority in mental health and addiction policies. “To improve the mental health and wellbeing of transgender people, we need to address the stigma and discrimination that they face. We also need to protect transgender people from violence, as a priority in sexual and domestic violence work.”

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