LGBTQ mental health resources in Seattle and King County: Here’s how you can find support

The Mental Health Project is a Seattle Times initiative focused on covering mental and behavioral health issues. It is funded by Ballmer Group, a national organization focused on economic mobility for children and families. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over work produced by this team.

There was the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016. The recent passage of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. And pressure to hide sexuality and gender expression from families or employers for fear of discrimination.

All these types of stressors and individual events — whether they’re in the news or happening at an individual level — can have a compounding impact on the mental health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, said Kince de Vera, a Performance artist and mental health advocate in Seattle.

“We can come from loving, accepting families living in the Seattle liberal bubble. But when a shooting happens in Orlando, I cannot be isolated,” he said.

As a backup dancer for drag queens, de Vera remembers hearing thumping in a club in the wake of the Pulse shooting, getting scared, and immediately searching for the exit signs.

“Even if your immediate life does not have a lot of stressors, there is still that acknowledgment that our communities are being oppressed everywhere and that those little micro-stressors add up,” he said.

The Seattle Times has compiled local and national mental health resources that aim to serve the LGBTQ+ community.

Note: This story may be updated periodically with new resources.

Counseling services

Seattle Counseling Servicesthe largest and oldest provider of mental and behavioral health support and therapy for LGBTQ+ people in the city, closed its doors this year after 53 years in service.

The shutdown produced “this huge gap in Seattle’s LGBTQ history, not just in mental health,” said Alexa Manilaa program manager in public health and a private-practice therapist and consultant.

“In this post-lockdown world, I think we’re all kind of faking that we’re fine without it and trying to make do. But what people don’t realize is this huge resource just got yanked away from an entire community,” de Vera said.

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The closure created a wide opening in services that people in the community are quickly trying to fill.

Manila and Ray Gottesmana former SCS supervisor and private-practice therapist, are working alongside a group of healthcare providers to create an accessible, collective hub of LGBTQ+ therapists to address the gap.

Other organizations they recommended include Therapeutic Health Services, International Community Health Services, Harborview Medical Center‘s mental health and addiction services, and Asian Counseling and Referral Services. Gay City can also provide referrals.

They also suggested people explore Optimism Counselingwhere several former SCS therapists now operate.

When searching for a counselor, Manila and Gottesman both encourage clients to look within themselves for what they’re seeking from therapy. Then they should look for a counselor who makes them feel comfortable and not be afraid to walk away if they don’t.

“Find a meaningful time with yourself and write down what comes to mind — even if it’s just bits of words or bullet points — then use that piece of paper and bring it into session,” Manila said.

Trust your gut, she said. Ask yourself if you feel connected while talking to the provider. “Do they hear me? Do they see me?”

Mental health resources from The Seattle Times

Inpatient services

Under Washington law, health insurers generally cannot exclude, deny or limit medically necessary gender-affirming treatment and trans people must receive equal access to health care.

However, facilities may not always feel welcoming or comfortable.

Manila said Residence XII in Kirkland and Hazelden Betty Ford in Bellevue are trans-inclusive.

Support networks

In times of mental health challenges, friends, family and chosen family within the community can help provide a safety network to connect LGBTQ+ people with support.

De Vera suggests building friendships by “finding the things that already bring you joy or reprieve” and asking those people to be in your support network. You can search for people who have shared interests, whether it’s at a tennis club, dodgeball team, or Dungeons & Dragons group.

Other places to explore are the Facebook groups Seattle Queer Exchange and Seattle Queer Housing Exchange.

Once you have a support network, identify people who you can call in an emergency and their phone will ring even in the middle of the night.

Then communicate with them what your needs are and what early-warning signs of distress look like. For example, if you’re suddenly not watering your plants, it may be a sign you’re not in a good place.

Help them by explaining what you want them to ask when they check in. For example, “I’m here for you” or “Call me if you need me” might not work, but “What can I do for you?” or “Have you eaten?” may be better.

There are also several peer support groups throughout Seattle and King County.

PFLAG Seattle Offers three meetings a month that are free and open to LGBTQ+ people, their parents, families and allies to talk through questions and challenges, said Seattle chapter president Deb Dahrling. PFLAG facilitators are volunteers, not professional counselors.

Meetings are being held online during the pandemic, but “we hope to return to in-person meetings soon,” she said.

Manila recommended the Ingersoll Gender Center for peer-to-peer support for trans, nonbinary and gender-diverse people, and UTOPIA Washingtonwhich stands for the United Territories of the Pacific Islanders Alliance, which provides peer support among queer and trans Pacific Islanders in South King County.

Gottesman suggested Entre Hermanoswhich provides health resources for the Latino LGBTQ+ population.

Physical health care

The Washington Law Against Discrimination protects LGBTQ+ people, including in health care settings. Still, LGBTQ+ people may need to search for a comfortable, sexuality- and gender-affirming, and knowledgeable healthcare provider to get the services they need.

QueerDoc.com, founded by Dr. Crystal Beal, provides a searchable database of LGBTQ+ doctors and nurse practitioners.

Dr. Peter Shalit and his office, Manila said, have been serving the LGBTQ+ populations for decades in King County. Dr. Linda Gromko has also worked with transgender people for more than 20 years. Dr. Elmer Mangubat offers transgender services in Tukwila.

For queer and trans youth, Dahrling suggested The Q Card, which allows them to fill in their name, pronouns, sexual orientation and gender identity and list any concerns or questions. They can bring the card to health care appointments to talk about their needs.

Housing, employment, legal and other resources

Other external factors, like housing and workplaces, impact individuals’ mental and behavioral health.

A new LGBTQ+ senior affordable housing complex, Pride Placehas broken ground on construction and is slated to open in 2023.

“We celebrate that this is the first and hopefully not the last,” Manila said.

The Greater Seattle Business Associationthe largest LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce, can provide referrals for employment opportunities, and both the City of Seattle and the State of Washington have LGBTQ+ commissions to ensure diverse groups are represented in political conversations.

Seattle Gay News and Seattle Pride provide a directory of LGBTQ+ resources.

Other groups locally include:

And hotels: