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Mental Health in the Bi+ Community

Why are mental health issues important to bi+ people?

Research suggests that bisexuals suffer worse mental health outcomes than heterosexuals, lesbians, and gay men. These outcomes include:

  • Higher rates of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders
  • Higher reporting of self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts
  • Lower levels of social support
  • Being less likely to be comfortable with their sexuality or be “out” to friends and family compared to lesbians and gay men
  • Higher rates of substance use, including cigarette smoking and heavy drinking

What causes these poor mental health outcomes?

While the exact reasons may differ from person-to-person, research suggests that there are two common elements involved: Bi+ antagonism (or biphobia*) and Bisexual erasure or invisibility

*The BRC uses “bi+ antagonism” instead of “biphobia” to limit ableist language and disassociate folks with clinical phobias with folks with antagonist viewpoints.

Bi+ Antagonism

Bi+ antagonism is the fear of, hatred towards, or discrimination against bisexuality. Common stereotypes associated with bi+ antagonism include:

  • Bisexuals are sexually greedy, promiscuous, and carriers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Bisexuals are untrustworthy or traitors to the LGBTQIA+ community, because they can take advantage of “heterosexual privilege.”
  • Bisexuals cannot be monogamous because they are attracted to everyone.
  • Bisexual women only aim to seek sexual attention from heterosexual men.
  • Bisexual men are too afraid to fully “come out” and therefore are “really just gay.”
    Bi+ antagonism isolates bisexuals from both heterosexual and LGBTQIA+ communities. It also prevents bisexuals from feeling positive and open about their sexuality, which in turn contributes to the higher reporting of anxiety, depression, and self-harm, as well as lower reporting of coming out.

Bisexual Erasure or Invisibility

Bisexual erasure or invisibility is ignoring, removing, or re-explaining the evidence of bisexuality. Common examples associated with bisexual erasure or invisibility include:

  • Denying that bisexuality exists as a real orientation, such as stating that it’s “just a phase” or simply for experimental purposes as one “eventually” labels oneself as gay/lesbian or heterosexual.
  • Assuming that a bisexual person is heterosexual if paired with partner of a different gender, or gay/lesbian if paired a partner of the same gender.
  • An organization claiming it is LGBTQIA+-inclusive, but not offering bi-specific programs and resources.
  • Mislabeling bisexuals as lesbian/gay or heterosexual even when they are openly “out” as bisexual.
  • Using phrases like “lesbian and gay” or “lesbian, gay, and trans” in place of LGBTQIA+.

Like bi+ antagonism, bisexual erasure or invisibility has profound effects on mental health in that it also invalidates and isolates bisexuals.

Seeking Help and Support

Talk to someone: It is important for bisexuals who are experiencing anxiety, depression, and/or suicidal thoughts to seek professional help as soon as possible. Locating a bi-positive mental health provider may take time, but they are out there. The end of this brochure provides some resources that can help.
Find a bi+ community: The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario, Canada discovered that bisexuals associate positive mental health outcomes with social support, self-acceptance, volunteering, and belonging in a bisexual community. You can locate a group near you at www.biresource.org/find-a-bi-group/. More information about mental health and bisexuality can also be found at www.bihealthmonth.org.

Self-Care Tips

Bisexuals can also improve their mental health by practicing self-care. Here are some self-care suggestions:
• Celebrate bisexuality through relevant movies, books, culture, and history.
• Wear bi+-pride colors or incorporate them into your lifestyle, whether through home
decorations, car bumper stickers, or office furnishings.
• Reach out to other members of the bi+ community, whether online or in person.
• Find some quiet time by taking mindful walks, practicing meditation, or doing yoga.
• Express yourself through writing stories, poetry, journal entries, and creating visual and musical art.
• Boost your self-esteem with positive, daily affirmations (“I am bisexual and proud!”).
• Practice healthy habits, such as eating nutritious meals, regularly exercising, and limiting the intake of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.

National Resources

Bisexuality-Aware Professionals Directory
http://www.bizone.org/bap/

The GLBT National Help Center Hotline
1-888-843-4564

The Trevor Project Lifeline (for youth ages 13-24)
1-866-488-7386

References

San Francisco Human Rights Commission. (2011). “Bisexual Invisibility: Impacts and Recommendations.” https://sf-hrc.org/reports-research-investigations

The Open University. (2012). “The Bisexuality Report: Bisexual Inclusion in LGBT Equality and Diversity.” http://www.open.ac.uk/