Caring for our mental health

As we commemorate World Mental Health Day each year on October 10, it is important to put into context the significance of this day to sexual and gender minorities in Ethiopia.

The BBC recently reported that the World Health Organization says Africa has the highest rate of people dying by suicide in the world. It further reported that Africa is home to six of the 10 countries with the highest suicide rates globally.

In Ethiopia, the problem is further worsened by the fact that not enough mental health workers are available to help people with mental health concerns. Especially, for the LGBTQ+ community, we are not able to share our mental health concerns due to stigma, discrimination and concern for our very physical wellbeing.

A study conducted by two queer organizations, that prefer to remain unnamed, shows that 41% of Ethiopian LGBTQ+ participants showed signs of depression. The study further asserts that this “figure is certainly high compared with the WHO estimate of 5% and the National Health Survey finding of 9%. This suggests that sexual and gender minority Ethiopians, as other vulnerable groups, may be at particular risk for depression and require access to mental healthcare.” The most vulnerable group from all sexual and gender minorities were bisexual women with 70% of participants showing signs of depression. 

While access to mental health workers is mandatory and essential, it is often unavailable and is risky given the homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia present across Ethiopia and our institutions.

Given these limitations on resources, what is it that we can do to take care of our mental wellbeing? Below, are a few pointers:

1. Focus on the Basics
Even before we experience bad episodes in our mental health, we should always take care of ourselves by doing the basics. Exercising, eating healthy, meditating, and sleeping well should be a part of our routine so as to maintain our mental well-being.

2. Identify Triggers
Be it from family, friends, relationships, school, work, or a combination of other things, it’s important to figure out what compromises our mental health. Knowing what distresses us can help us determine if the issue is something we should walk away from or find ways to live with.

3. Find a Creative Outlet
Think about something we love doing or want to learn how to do – such as painting, music, dance, cooking, or writing – and do it, but put everything we have into our creativity to make it our own. These activities serve both as outlets for maintaining our mental health and as distractions for when we’re experiencing bad days.

4. Find a Supportive Environment
Talking with others who are going through similar challenges or people who are able to make space for our struggles can be a comfort as well as a sounding board for anger and frustration. We should reach out to people in the community and allies that we are comfortable with.

5. Reach Out to Organizations that Support the LGBTQ Community
You can reach out to Queer Ethiopia ( and we may be able to link you up with resources.

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