Barriers to Mental Health Care Identified by Sexual and Gender Minority Individuals in Georgia and South Carolina

Elizabeth K. Pryor, Margaret Tyre, Susan Brands, Ryan E. Flinn, Lara M. Stepleman, Natalie R. Holt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective Geographic location can affect access to appropriate, affirming mental health care for sexual and gender minority (SGM) individuals, especially for those living in rural settings. Minimal research has examined barriers to mental health care for SGM communities in the southeastern United States. The objective of this study was to identify and characterize perceived barriers to obtaining mental health care for SGM individuals living in an underserved geographic area. Methods Drawing from a health needs survey of SGM communities in Georgia and South Carolina, 62 participants provided qualitative responses describing barriers they encountered to accessing mental health care when needed in the previous year. Four coders used a grounded theory approach to identify themes and summarize the data. Results Three themes of barriers to care emerged: personal resource barriers, personal intrinsic factors, and healthcare system barriers. Participants described barriers that can inhibit access to mental health care regardless of one's sexual orientation or gender identity, such as finances or lack of knowledge about services, but several of the identified barriers intersect with SGM-related stigma or may be magnified by participants' location in an underserved region of the southeastern United States. Conclusions SGM individuals living in Georgia and South Carolina endorsed several barriers to receiving mental health services. Personal resource and intrinsic barriers were the most common, but healthcare system barriers were present as well. Some participants described simultaneously encountering multiple barriers, illustrating that these factors can interact in complex ways to affect SGM individuals' mental health help seeking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)264-269
Number of pages6
JournalSouthern medical journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • health services accessibility
  • mental health services
  • sexual and gender minorities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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