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Unsafe at Home: COVID-19 Isolation Increases Risk for LGBTQ+ Community

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Posted June 12, 2020 by UVM Health Network

While our communities have been rattled from the swift and unexpected changes from COVID-19, the LGBTQ+ population is managing additional challenges. Our LGBTQ+ friends, family and neighbors have faced long-standing challenges in our society from increased rates of mental health issues to higher rates of substance use, but during the COVID-19 quarantine, they are managing another daunting issue. Pride Month is celebrated every June, and in honor of this month we’d like to address this important topic.

Unsafe at Home

According to recent research reported by Reuters, 1 in 3 gay men report feeling unsafe at home during the coronavirus quarantine. This research was based on 3,500 respondents from a wide range of countries, which included transgender men, who said “they felt physically or emotionally unsafe in their own homes.” While this research focuses on gay men, the problem of intimate partner violence (IPV) and familial abuse in the LGBTQ+ community is prevalent in the entire population. Bisexual and lesbian women have higher lifetime rates of IPV than their heterosexual counterparts. Gay men face similar rates of IPV in their lifetime as their heterosexual counterparts. And lastly, bisexual men have a significantly higher rate of IPV than their heterosexual counterparts during their lifetime.

LGBTQ+ youth also face significant challenges while isolated at home during the quarantine. Many are in homes where they are not able to express their gender identity and/or sexual orientation and if they do, they are at risk of familial rejection. Familial rejection has been shown to increase lifetime suicide attempts, illegal drug use, and risk for HIV infection in LGBTQ+ youth.

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Graphic-Family-Acceptance-of-LGBTQ-Youth  

While familial rejection can cause significant harm, familial acceptance has positive effects on LGBTQ+ youth.

Infographics source: https://nccc.georgetown.edu/documents/LGBT_Brief.pdf

How to Cope During Quarantine or Staying Connected Outside the Home

  • Maintain connections with supportive family and/or friends while in quarantine. This may be by phone, text or video conference, such as Zoom, FaceTime, Skype or Google Hangouts.
  • Seek counseling or continue with your current counseling. Many counselors are providing online or video visits in addition to in-person visits.
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and water.
  • If you are struggling with mental health, emotional abuse or physical abuse at home, reach out to your primary care doctor, counselor or a trusted family member or friend. You can also connect with any of the violence or LGBTQ+ resources listed below by phone or online. Help is available.

Check In On Those You Care About

While we are all struggling to maintain some normalcy and adapt to our new normal under quarantine with COVID-19, please remember that some people are struggling in silence more than you might know. Despite the physical distance that separates us, we must remain connected to support each other. Check in on your loved ones, keep in contact and be aware of their needs and concerns.

Signs of Depression

Depression symptoms vary by person but usually present with differences in behavior or demeanor for more than two weeks. Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Changes to sleep patterns or difficulties with sleep (too little or too much)
  • Changes in eating, drinking or appetite
  • Changes in concentration or movement (reduced activity or increased agitation)
  • Low or reduced energy
  • Reduced interest in activities or engagement with others
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Thoughts of suicide or hurting oneself

Signs of Violence

If someone is experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV), you may notice the following signs.

  • Physical aggression, such as pushing, shoving, grabbing, slapping or hitting their partner
  • Unpredictable mood changes
  • Verbal aggression, including name-calling, belittling, blaming, swearing and yelling at their partner, often resulting in the partner feeling guilty or ashamed
  • Placing blame on their partner or others for their problems
  • Threats of hurting themselves, their partner, or their partner’s family or friends if their partner tries to leave
  • Jealousy, suspicion or anger, for no relevant reason
  • Monitoring and controlling of their partner’s time, activities, decisions, comings and goings, or interactions with family and friends
  • Isolating their partner, such as forcing them to stay home or keeping them from using their phone or other forms of communication
  • Controlling the partner’s money, whether through financial decisions or accessing money without permission
  • Forcing their partner to have sex, even when unwanted

Get Help

If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic violence, there is help. Contact your primary care provider or one of the resources below.

National Domestic Violence Hotline
https://www.thehotline.org/
(800) 799-7233

Hope Works (Chittenden County, VT)
https://hopeworksvt.org/
(802) 863-1236

Steps to End Domestic Violence (Chittenden County, VT)
https://www.stepsvt.org/
(802) 658-1996

STOP Domestic Violence Services (Northern NY)
https://bhsn.org/mental-health/stop-domestic-violence-services-sub-page/
(518) 563-6904

Clinton County Suicide Hotline (Clinton County, NY)
https://www.clintoncountygov.com/mental_health_addiction_services/suicide_hotline
(866) PREVENT (577-3836)


LGBTQ+ RESOURCES IN VERMONT

Outright Vermont (for LGBTQ+ youth):
http://www.outrightvt.org/
(802) 865-9677

Pride Center of Vermont:
https://www.pridecentervt.org/
(802) 860-7812


LGBTQ+ RESOURCES IN NORTHERN NEW YORK

Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance
https://www.facebook.com/adkncga/
(518) 637-7253

Planned Parenthood of the North Country New York
https://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center/new-york/plattsburgh/12901/plattsburgh-clinic-3315-91210/lgbtq
(518)536-4430


RESOURCES FOR LGBTQ+ FAMILIES AND CAREGIVERS

Child Welfare Department
https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/diverse-populations/lgbtq/lgbt-families/

PFLAG
https://pflag.org/family

The Trevor Project
https://www.thetrevorproject.org
(866)488-7386

David Segel, APRN, is a family medicine nurse practitioner at the University of Vermont Medical Center Family Medicine - Berlin.

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