California’s Palm Springs has a history of being one of the more interesting desert resort destinations. The city has a laid-back lifestyle with a do-as-you-will vibe. It’s hot and somewhat small, but if there’s one thing that most people think of when talking about Palm Springs, it’s how queer it is.
There’s a significant LGBTQ community in the city, and by significant, we mean half of its 45,000-strong population. As a result, it has sort of earned a reputation for being a haven for older, queer folk. Many who visit are charmed by the welcoming atmosphere and choose to move in permanently.
However, as with many queer communities, mental health issues are a bit more prevalent and warrant a closer look. In this article, let us explore some of the mental health challenges that occur even in queer-affirming communities.
Internal challenges in supportive queer environments
Most of the time, conversations revolving around mental health challenges among the LGBTQ community are answered with generalised, sweeping statements. These can include phrases like “lack of acceptance”, “discrimination”, or “poor access to healthcare”. While that may be true in many situations, it does not address the challenges that are faced by queer people residing in supportive environments like Palm Springs.
Taking a closer look reveals that many of the challenges involve complex emotions and are often connected with self-worth. For instance, internalised stigma can be a powerful weight to deal with. Queer people who have only recently moved to affluent and affirming environments may still carry over bits of self-loathing, a seed that prejudiced society may have planted.
People may struggle with thoughts like “I can be gay, but maybe I shouldn’t be too flamboyant, even if Palm Springs is queer-friendly,” or “Can I really be happy as I am?”
While it is possible to deal with these feelings on your own, it is highly recommended to speak to a professional. A therapist or a psychiatrist for Palm Springs, CA, can help queer people challenge such internalised stigma.
Similarly, other struggles include identity issues, especially among the trans community, and dealing with new relationship dynamics that they may not have enough experience with.
The very challenge of seeking mental health care
For many in the LGBTQ community, speaking about their issues with someone can be a challenge in itself. Their past experience with opening up to friends and family may not have been the most positive, and there’s always a fear of discrimination.
However, times are changing, and many parts of the country have gotten more accepting and inclusive. Mental health professionals these days often undergo specialised training to better equip them to counsel LGBTQ issues. Therapy can be a life-changing experience, but many people never give it a chance.
Often, this is caused by a flawed idea of what the therapeutic process is like, and the perception is influenced by Hollywood and pop culture. Therapy sessions are not always hour-long affairs, with each session having your mind psychoanalysed.
According to Desert View Health, the initial session may be about fifty minutes or so, but follow-up sessions are often shorter and more manageable. Even if you aren’t ready for therapy, there are other ways to prioritise your mental health. (Of course, this may differ from clinic to clinic.)
Residents of Palm Springs can take advantage of the fact that the city has support groups, workshops, and gatherings that happen all the time. Taking part in them can be the first step in taking care of your mental health.
The Palm Springs lifestyle has its own issues
Queer people who decide to move to the city for its acceptance may find themselves struggling for other reasons.
The cost of living certainly doesn’t match up with the job opportunities, and income disparities are extremely prevalent. Due to the desert climate, you quickly realize that stores open late and close early. You can find countless people bemoaning how tough it is to find even a simple breakfast burrito before 10:00 AM. The lifestyle can take some getting used to.
Similarly, the city leans older, and if you are a queer couple with kids, it can get a little boring sometimes. Palm Springs has its charms, but being kid-friendly is not something it’s particularly good at. These factors can affect mental well-being, especially for queer people who expected a perfect life in Palm Springs.
The LGBTQ community in Palm Springs has a long history, but it also faces unique challenges. Just because the city is more welcoming doesn’t mean that it is free from problems. While practical difficulties such as direct discrimination may no longer pose an issue, other crises still exist.
Dealing with them is both a personal and a community concern that needs more attention. Concerns revolving around identity, queer relationships, and trans issues are waters that haven’t been charted as much as they need to be. The resources to help the community are still evolving, and it’s clear that a focus on mental health will be critical.
Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.