The Queer Mental Health Workbook: A creative self-help guide using CBT, CFT and DBT
The world feels pretty upside down right now. COVID-19 is still affecting people worldwide, the cost-of-living is soaring, and the recent invasion of Ukraine is at the forefront of our minds.
Things certainly feel overwhelming. For those that are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer (LGBTQ+), the additional management of existence and survival in the face of prejudice and discrimination add extra ‘minority’ stress on top of ‘everyday’ stress, and ‘world event’ stress.
The landscape once again feels hostile to LGBTQ+ people, in particular trans, non-binary and gender diverse folk. Recent events and laws in Texas and Florida have reminded me that the people that interact with us, the systems and structures that exist around us, and the stories that we tell and are told by others have such an impact on our mental health and wellbeing.
Before I qualified as a Clinical Psychologist, and now in my qualified life, I work and have worked with LGBTQ+ people that experience mental health challenges. I often searched the web for specific mental health resources for this minoritized group of people, looking for nuggets of wisdom created with LGBTQ+ struggles in mind. I couldn’t find much; rather, therapies and therapeutic techniques that suggested adaptations. Whilst adaptations were suggested, the resources (worksheets, activities etc) didn’t seem to be readily available.
Zooming out to see wellbeing in context
This was the catalyst for me, as a then-trainee, to begin to create a resource that had worksheets, activities, hints, tips, and tricks, specifically for LGBTQ+ people in mind. Furthermore, I wanted to help people zoom out in their journey, to really consider what was going on around them and to them, to help them situate their mental health and wellbeing in context. For example, if gay men live in a world whereby attraction (and perceived ‘worth’) is intimately tied to body image, then perhaps no wonder that gay and bi men experience disproportionately difficult relationships with eating. If bisexual people must navigate discrimination and prejudice from both the heterosexual and queer communities, then it is no wonder that they experience difficulties managing their emotions, with self-injury being used to sometimes help them ‘regulate’ their feelings.
The Queer Mental Health Workbook aims to help LGBTQ+ people think about their mental health and wellbeing in context.
The book is split into two sections. The first section focuses upon wellbeing and helps the reader to consider the basics of queer mental health, their identity and relationships, self-compassion and self-acceptance and the important area of ‘intersectionality’.
The second section the focuses upon specific mental health challenges that disproportionately affect the LGBTQ+ communities. Chapters include shame, feeling low in mood, feeling anxious, trauma, self-harm, eating difficulties, sleep difficulties and suicide. All worksheets and activities within the book have accompanying downloadable worksheets, with a code in the book for you to download them.
What is important to hold in mind is that mental health and wellbeing exists very much on a spectrum. I discuss in the book how we can fall at various points on this spectrum, from psychologically thriving, to psychologically distressed. We know that many LGBTQ+ folk also live very happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. For those that do not have any psychological or mental health difficulties, this book can still help them explore aspects of their identity, relationships and wellbeing without there needing to be ‘something wrong’.
In a world that feels unstable, unpredictable, and scary, I really hope that this book can bring some semblance of reassurance and hope to folks that want to think about ways in which they can help themselves, and also change the way they interact with unhelpful systems, structure and stories around them.