World Pride is in full swing in Spain’s capital, with celebrations attracting crowds of an estimated three million people. Rainbow flags hang from balconies and shop windows, stores are filled with Pride merchandise and people stop in the street to take selfies with billboards proclaiming “Madrid loves you, whoever you love”. Spain’s legislative and social progress is demonstrated by the smiling same-sex couples who march hand in hand with their biological or adopted children, wedding bands on their ring fingers.
According to the last Pew Research Center poll in 2013, Spain is the most gay-friendly country in the world.
The celebration of love, equality and acceptance shows how far Spain has come in recent years, whilst bringing to light the less tolerant treatment of LGBTQIA people in countries like Russia whose struggle for equal rights and freedom from discrimination is ongoing. In addition, various groups march in the parade to highlight the prevalence of depression and other mental health problems within the LGBTQIA community in Spain and worldwide.
LGBTQIA mental health
Access to specialised LGBT mental health support services in Spain varies by region. For example, Madrid and Andalusia offer specialised regional or local counselling services that are not provided in Valencia or Catalonia, according to the Federacion Estatal de Lesbianas, Gais, Transexuales y Bisexuales (FELTB).
Non-governmental organisations and non-profit groups host support groups, informative talks and counselling sessions to support those with depression and mental health problems. Some schools have set up gay-straight alliances to provide safe spaces for Spain’s youth.
Additional services for people living with HIV and their families are available, to help them deal with the emotional as well as the physical impact of the illness. The government has recently cut the funding of some services so these groups are more important than ever.
Three quarters of the LGBTQIA people surveyed by FELGTB said that they had felt sad or depressed for one or more days in the last month. 9% of the transgender women surveyed felt sad or depressed for longer than 21 days, scoring higher than any other subgroup. 41% of transgender people reported feeling discriminated against whilst seeking health care, which could dissuade them from seeking help. These statistics suggest that further action is needed to improve mental health.
Clear progress for LGBTQIA people has been made in recent years in Spain. However, despite inclusive legislation and greater societal acceptance of LGBTQIA people; cuts to government-funded health services are threatening the availability of mental health support services that can vastly improve users’ quality of life.