Church teaching and LGB mental health
by Ian Paul, Psephizo:
Peter Ould writes: The Oasis report, “In the Name of Love”, has received lots of attention since its release on Friday. The Oasis paper makes three claims, two of which are relatively uncontroversial. The first is that “LGB people are significantly more likely to experience mental health problems than heterosexuals“. Several papers are cited to support this contention and there is little academic dispute of this key point. Second, the paper states, “These problems with mental health are as a result of discrimination and a sense of societal inferiority”. Again, the link between what is known as “minority stress” and mental health is a well established observation and we find it in a number of other minorities (BAME etc).
In the LGB community there is a particular link between the level of non-affirmation of homosexuality and increased mental health issues, but the Oasis paper does not actually cite any quantitative research to support the direct link between between LGB minority stress and mental health outcomes when compared with other possible causes for depression etc. The paper also makes the claim that “There is a growing consensus that these vulnerabilities arise as a result of the treatment of LGB people in society” but again no direct quantitative research is presented to support this. Indeed, some of the more recent quantitative research in countries that have seen dramatic improvements in societal attitudes towards LGB people evidence very little change in mental health outcomes when compared to other surveys a decade or more ago (for example R Bränsträm et al 2015 when compared with earlier Swedish studies).
Of course, none of this means that we should neglect issues of LGB minority stress and mental health outcomes, but we should be cautious when ascribing particular blame for it to a specific cause. In this light of this, the third and key claim of the report that has been heavily publicised is the assertion that conservative teaching in churches specifically contributes to negative mental health outcomes in LGB people. The report claims (p14),