Mental Health Hero

Zoe Stoller Discusses The Importance Of LGBTQ+ Storytelling In The Depression Looks Like Me Campaign

There is strength and beauty in being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, but with society’s stigmatization of queer and trans people our mental health, unfortunately, takes a hit. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “LGB adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition”. Additionally, “transgender individuals are nearly four times as likely as cisgender individuals to experience a mental health condition”.

The mental health of LGBTQ youth is just as impacted by society’s stigmatization of queer and trans people. According to The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, “45% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year and 60% of LGBTQ youth who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it”.

This is where the Depression Looks Like Me campaign comes in. The campaign is focused on “normalizing the conversation about depression in the LGBTQ community and empowering people to seek the mental health care they may need”. Several queer and trans content creators, mental health organizations, and LGBTQ advocacy organizations are promoting the narratives of LGBTQ folks creating community through storytelling. 

To learn more about the campaign, INTO spoke with content creator, social work student, and writer Zoe Stoller (she/they) on her experience with the campaign, their experience with depression, and best practices for LGBTQ folks navigating depression. Zoe focuses on sharing LGBTQ and mental health education and visibility through her platforms, with partnering with the Depression Looks Like Me being the perfect opportunity to do so. 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Zoe 🌈 LGBTQ+ ✨ Mental Health 💡 Education (@zoestoller)

What’s your own story with navigating mental health and depression?

So I’m so thrilled to be working on the Depression Looks Like Me campaign because I’ve definitely had a long history of depression throughout my life, as well as kind of feeling the stigmas surrounding discussions of mental health and depression. When I first started struggling, I felt very unable to share my story. I really felt that nobody else would understand and that I would be a burden. So, I kept things to myself. But of course, that only serves to make your depression worse. It’s so important to be open about what you’re feeling and to connect with others who are feeling the same way. 

Because as it turns out, I was not the only one who was struggling with depression, especially not the only person within the LGBTQ community. And that’s kind of a specific focus of the Depression Looks Like Me campaign, really understanding the intersection of mental health and queerness because the LGBTQ community in all its various forms, shapes, experiences, and challenges are different from the non-straight or the straight and transgender community. And so it’s so important to be open about all of our experiences. 

I’ve seen the power of sharing your story and connecting with people who have had similar experiences and helping other people realize that they’re not alone in what they’re experiencing.

You’re a social work student, content creator, and a writer. How have you been able to mix all these different pieces of yourself into this campaign to highlight depression and mental health support for queer and trans folks?

That is a great question. I definitely feel like the Depression Looks Like Me campaign really does a great job of connecting all of the things that I’m interested in.

Within my social work career, I do want to work specifically with the LGBTQ+ community, and mental health is so much a part of that. [It’s] so exciting to hear about this opportunity in this campaign and realize that the work that they’re trying to do in destigmatizing mental health and giving LGBTQ people resources and access to a larger community, again, really aligns with my own mission and what I’m trying to do on my social media pages and in my social work career. 

And so I always just get so excited about opportunities to meld all of my interests because oftentimes the things that I’m passionate about kind of take different paths. But here we are talking about queer and trans mental health, and that’s exactly what I want to be doing with my future. Focusing on that topic.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Zoe 🌈 LGBTQ+ ✨ Mental Health 💡 Education (@zoestoller)

I recognize that sometimes there is a disconnect for queer and trans folks obtaining proper mental health care support and recognizing that what is needed may not always be there. What are some misconceptions or barriers to therapy that LGBTQ people may not realize?

So I know that there’s definitely a lot of barriers to queer and trans people receiving mental health services. Although, interestingly, a statistic shows that queer and trans people are 2.5 times more likely to seek out these services than non-queer people, which is very interesting. But a lot of times queer people are afraid that their mental health clinician or whoever they’re working with won’t understand their queerness. 

If a mental health person is not fully open and aware of all of the possibilities of queerness, then that can only retraumatize the person who’s seeking help and prevent them from really getting the help that they need in their depression. And so I know that that fear is what prevents a lot of people from seeking help. But it’s great that there are so many queer and trans-focused mental health professionals. Soon I will be one as well. 

There is a really bright future out there, more and more LGBTQ+-focused mental health practitioners coming into play. Hopefully that obstacle will continue to decrease for the community over time.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Zoe 🌈 LGBTQ+ ✨ Mental Health 💡 Education (@zoestoller)

What are some best practices or maybe even resources that you think that LGBTQ folks should look into when they’re looking for mental health support?

I’ll say that the Depression Looks Like Me website also has a lot of resources specifically for the LGBTQ community who are struggling with depression on there. So I would definitely recommend checking out that site and seeing all the resources there. But then there are also so many amazing LGBTQ organizations that are really working to promote education and mental health visibility and positivity – It Gets Better, The Trevor Project, and similar organizations. 

So, those pages definitely have a lot of resources out there as well. But there are so many organizations and websites that are really making it their mission to kind of create one place for all these resources for LGBTQ people seeking treatment or help with their depression or just seeking a larger community. 

Recognizing that therapy and mental health support are not a one size fits all approach, what are some tips that you would give to someone who’s trying to navigate both successfully?

There are so many different types of treatment for depression out there, and it is not a one size fits all diagnosis. Everybody’s going to require different types of treatment, different types of support, especially when you’re thinking about the various other identities that people hold. And that’s also kind of one of the focuses of the Depression Looks Like Me campaign, making sure that the different people who are sharing their stories are coming from a variety of backgrounds and hold a variety of other identities as well. 

Because treatment and stories and experiences will look different depending on who you are. So I guess one big tip that I would have in kind of searching for a therapist or just searching for community is to find other people who hold your same identities. It’s just such a remarkable thing to be represented and to be helped by somebody who probably has experienced similar things to you. That also helps with the treatment and the overall therapeutic relationship, because the person can probably offer deeper, more meaningful advice and support than somebody who didn’t fully understand your experiences.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Zoe 🌈 LGBTQ+ ✨ Mental Health 💡 Education (@zoestoller)

What is your biggest hope for the Depression Looks Like Me campaign?

My biggest hope for the Depression Looks Like Me campaign is that it will encourage other people to be more open about their mental health struggles and to share their stories as well. There’s a place on the website for people to submit their stories, and I really hope that people will feel inspired and empowered to do so, because as we’ve been saying, there is so much power in both hearing other people share their stories and then also in sharing your own story as well.

And then likewise, you can then inspire other people to share their stories as well. So I really hope that this campaign will help increase that visibility and increase the destigmatization of depression. The more people who share their stories, the more we realize that we’re not alone.

What is one thing that you want to leave with people who will be a part of this campaign’s community?

I want them to know that I am a huge member of this community. I support you, and I understand you, and I would love for us to, as a community, keep sharing our stories, keep connecting with each other, keep uplifting and supporting each other. And I hope that my page and my story can be a helpful resource to you all and please feel free to reach out and share your story with me or ask me any further questions. I just want to be here to be a resource and a pillar in the community.♦

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