The Mental Health Impacts of DeSantis’ Slate of Hate
The Mental Health Impacts of DeSantis’ Slate of Hate
As a youth growing up in Florida, I have experienced the damaging effects of statewide attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and have seen similar impacts reflected in my peers. From lowered self-esteem to fear of leaving my house during intense strife, living in my home state as an LGBTQ person and outspoken activism sometimes feel no different from living under a microscope of oppression and dread.
As we examine the impact of DeSantis’ war on freedom in Florida, we see the most apparent manifestations of oppression first. Doctors and teachers leave the state. We read about hate crimes and increasing threats sent to people and corporations supporting LGBTQ+ rights. But there is one extremely pressing consequence that is not as visible to the naked eye of the media. It is the mental health impact of ill-will legislation and discrimination on LGBTQ+ Floridians, especially those of intersecting identities.
For years, mental health issues have been overly burdening the LGBTQ+ community compared to the general population. In 2022 alone, 60% of LGBT adults experienced anxiety compared to 30% of non-LGBT adults. Also, in 2022, 40% of LGBT adults experienced depression compared to 19% of non-LGBT adults1.
The youth of the community are getting hit particularly hard. The Trevor Project found that 45% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide last year. They also found that youth who racially or ethnically identified as indigenous, middle eastern, Northern African, and of more than one race/ethnicity experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression more so than youth who identify differently2.
I graduated from high school in 2022, but I remain connected with my under-classmates, many of whom identify with the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups. From them, I hear about students rushing back into the closet in fear for their safety. I hear of increased bullying, which is known to foster poor mental health. For instance, during a conversation with Sid, a transgender high school student in Florida, he expressed his concerns about the current state of bullying toward trans kids. He remarked, "It’s more acceptable to bully trans kids now…the more hatred there is the more it seems like it’s okay."
Sid also highlighted the alarming impact of this increased bullying on the mental well-being of many transgender students, including himself. He noticed that a significant number of them are grappling with feelings of loneliness. When reflecting on how the bullying affected his own mental health, Sid candidly shared, "I definitely felt super differentiated from my peers. It made me almost scared to share my identity with others." Desantis’ aggressive anti-equality attacks are fueling the downfall of our youth. When our leaders set such a negative example and send hateful messages to our youth, it’s bound to reflect in their behaviors, attitudes, and well-being.
That applies to adults as well. In the last few years, health professionals and researchers have seen an uptick in these negative mental health experiences among adults. It’s no coincidence that this increase in depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation aligns with the upsurge in anti-LGBTQ legislation in Florida and across the US.
According to the HRC, “Florida is poised to pass a record six expressly anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law this year, more than the last seven years combined”3.
Nationwide, 2023 is already a record year for anti-LGBTQ legislation, with many such bills targeting youth. The ACLU is tracking 228 school-related anti-LGBTQ legislations (as of 4:00 PM EST on 07/10/2023). The amount of bills from this category popping up on the ACLU’s radar outnumbers every other, including healthcare and free speech/expression4.
DeSantis’ Slate of Hate continues to bring more damaging attacks like these to the table like rapid fire, shooting down at the LGBTQ+ community in Florida, and mortally wounding their mental health and well-being.
When where you’re supposed to call home feels more like a cage of hostility, oppression, and hatefulness, it’s only natural that negative thoughts and emotions creep into your mind and soul. Even though I see myself as a strong-willed individual, no matter how strong you are, no one is immune to the weight of oppression. That’s why we need to take a stand to lift that weight and bring the lightness of freedom to our lives.
Research has shown that living in an accepting and inclusive community fosters positive mental health outcomes, especially for transgender and nonbinary people. Additionally, a recent study published in the Journal of Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity indicates that LGBTQ+ who participate in activism tend to have “enhanced psychological well-being”5.
There is a way to overcome these mental health inequalities facing our LGBTQ+ community, and it starts right here at Equality Florida. By fighting together to secure full equality for every individual and family in Florida, we can shape our state into one that is inclusive, accepting, and truly free for all.
You can get involved by joining our team of Equality Florida volunteers! Check out our variety of uplifting volunteer opportunities: Volunteer Portal | Equality Florida (eqfl.org)