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Mental health of transgender people is under increasing pressure, study finds

By in Press Enterprise on November 2, 2017

By California Healthline

By Anna Gorman, California Healthline

Diana Feliz Oliva, a 45-year-old transgender woman who grew up outside Fresno, remembers being bullied when she was younger and feeling confused about her gender identity. She was depressed and fearful about being found out, and she prayed every night for God to take her while she slept.

“I was living in turmoil,” said Oliva, who now works as health program manager in a clinic for transgender people at St. John’s Well Child & Family Center in Los Angeles. “Every morning, I would wake up and I knew I would have to endure another day.”

Oliva’s experience is strikingly consistent with the findings of a new report from UCLA that shows transgender adults in California are more likely to have suicidal thoughts than other adults in the state, and more likely to have attempted suicide.

They are also more likely than their non-transgender peers to face severe psychological distress and to be disabled because of a physical or mental health condition, the report found.

The mental health gap is worrisome because it points to ongoing discrimination and bias, the study’s authors said.

The data — released Tuesday as part of the annual UCLA California Health Interview Survey — highlight health disparities among a marginalized population. The survey, a collaboration between the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, covers demographics, access to health care and health status.

California prohibits discrimination against transgender people in employment, insurance, housing and public accommodations. Williams Institute researcher Bianca Wilson said the UCLA report underscores the need to determine how well these anti-discrimination policies are being implemented throughout the state. Across the nation, 30 states lack similar anti-discrimination laws, according to the study.

“There are also national debates and national policies that impact individual trans folks regardless of where they […]    

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