India is a colorful and a vivid canvas depicting an extraordinary assimilation of ethnic groups exhibiting varied cultures and religions. In fact, the various minorities in the country adding to this diversity is what makes India so distinct from other nations. Though traditionally associated with racial, cultural and ethnic minorities, the term ‘minority’ also includes individuals from a wide variety of marginalized and unreserved groups. These include those who may identify as being a part of the LGBTQ spectrum, the immigrant groups, religious groups and others who are often overlooked. These people are socially, economically, politically and legally ignored and excluded in the Indian society. These minority groups have less access to mental health services than the majority. Lack of positive and supportive care leads to a vicious cycle which prevents them from living a normal life, which further leads to more isolation from the entire society. This has a tremendous impact on their productivity and overall mental health.
A constellation of barriers prevents the minorities from seeking help and receiving treatment which includes societal stigma, and the fragmented organization of services, clinicians’ lack of awareness of cultural issues, bias, or inability to speak the client’s language, and the client’s fear and mistrust of treatment. More broadly, disparities also stem from minorities’ historical and present day struggles with racism and discrimination, which affect
their mental health and contribute to their lower economic, social, and political status (General, U. S. 2001).
The minority groups are continuously rejected and bullied, which often starts from home and school. They are denied access to education, employment, and social spaces. They
are even discriminated at workplaces and are denied rights, including basics such as medical care, which has a direct impact on quality of life. This leads to alienation, unhealthy risk-taking and for some others, even suicide.
Faced with a lack of social acceptance, harassment and rejection by parents which has complicated internal struggles over their sexuality, around 16 members, within the age group of 18-30, committed suicide during 2014-2015.
However, there are some support groups in the country that minority populations can reach out to. For instance, in order to highlight mental health issues among the LGBT community, and also to encourage individuals to opt for counselling over self-harm and suicide, Chennai Dost conducted a program titled Muttrupuli (Full Stop) at Besant Nagar during the weekend. Experts like Dr Lakshmi Vijaykumar, psychiatrist and founder of Sneha (suicide
prevention help line), delivered a talk at the event where they highlighted societal discrimination and parental pressure to play key roles.
Apart from Chennai dost which is one of the largest community organization’s for the LGBTQ in Tamil Nadu, in April 1994, The Humsafar Trust (HST) was founded to reach out to LGBTQ communities in Mumbai Metro and surrounding areas. It offers a safe space for the LGBTQ community and also provides sessions on legal awareness, mental health, social entitlements, and coming out, among others.
These organizations reflect the support groups that exist for minority communities, specifically the LGBTQIA communities in our country. It becomes increasingly important to be aware of these support groups, especially in a country with so much diversity, especially because mental health is crucial, and mental health services should be equally accessible to all individuals regardless of background differences or individual preferences. We hope this is a positive step towards many more support groups coming together for different minority communities, so that their needs do not go unmet.