Roxane Gay, Gigi Gorgeous, Wilson Cruz and Others Discuss Mental Health in the LGBTQ Community

·3 min read
Roxane Gay, Gigi Gorgeous, Wilson Cruz and Others Discuss Mental Health in the LGBTQ Community

Roxane Gay, Gigi Gorgeous, Wilson Cruz and others are hoping to help break the stigma around mental health in the LGBTQ community by coming together for a candid conversation about their own mental health.

This week, PEOPLE and the non-profit organization Bring Change to Mind, which was started by actress Glenn Close, is hosting a four-part virtual panel series on mental health and young people, called Conversations with Bring Change to Mind in Partnership with PEOPLE.

The series continues today with a panel called LGBTQIA and Mental Health, led by PEOPLE Editor-in-Chief Dan Wakeword and featuring best-selling author Gay, actors Alec Mapa and Cruz as well as YouTube star Gigi.

On the panel, Cruz — the first openly gay actor to play an openly gay character in a leading television role — spoke about his own experience with reaching out for help.

"My coming out was traumatic," he said. "I got kicked out and I had to find a way to survive."

"A lot of that meant being vulnerable enough to ask for help and reaching out to not only my inner circle, my circle of my chosen family, but also trying to find resources within the community that were willing and able to support me out of a really fragile time," he added. "I'd be honest by saying that it wasn't until the last few years that I could say I really healed from that trauma."

Wilson went on to note that recently he's been able to have some important conversations with his parents. "I found myself in such a vulnerable place for the last year that it gave me permission to have those conversations," he said.

"When I allowed myself to be vulnerable, people returned the favor," he said, adding that the experience also cemented the fact that "these things stay with us, and unless we face them, we don't get to walk through it."

RELATED: Let's Talk About Mental Health: Conversations with Bring Change to Mind in Partnership with PEOPLE

When it comes to how to promote better understanding and encourage non-judgement in others, Gay said that "the most important thing is to always treat difference as a source of strength."

Gigi added that "visibility" is also important.

"It really is all about seeing different stories, seeing different faces, different genders, different ethnicities, different religions, all different paths," she said. "And that's one of the beautiful things about being online is you get to see everyone's different stories."

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But as important as resilience may be, Gay pointed out that it's always okay to ask for help.

"We love to prioritize resilience and grit. And I think that can sometimes put a lot of pressure on a person," the author said. "I think a lot of us were resilient because we didn't think we had a choice, but you do have a choice sometimes. And it's okay if you can't just sort of grit your way through it, and you need some support along the way."

"You have to also start with a foundation that you're worth it. If you're struggling and you feel sad, it's okay for you to get help because you're worth it," added Mapa." You're worth, you're worth being taken care of."