Journal of Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences




Non-heterosexual (NH) individuals are often exposed to stressors based on their non-heterosexual status and, therefore, may have unique needs related to help-seeking for mental health, especially in rural areas where residents are more likely to identify as religious or conservative, groups that have historically been opposed to NH individuals. This study was completed to explore the lives of 10 non-heterosexual individuals in rural northern Michigan related to their daily encounters with minority stress and their experiences with help-seeking for mental health symptomology. In-depth semistructured interviews were conducted, and transcriptions were analyzed to identify the occurrence of traumatic experiences at a systemic/interpersonal level, subsequent internalization of those experiences, how that prompted the need for counseling, and the individual experiences within those therapeutic encounters. Thematic analysis identified three themes: (a) experiences of distal stressors and proximal stress reactions related to environmental and interpersonal interactions, (b) heteronormativity and heterosexism within the help-seeking process, and (c) suggestions for improving the help-seeking process. The results of this study include increasing awareness of, and focus on, the NH population in rural northern Michigan, which may have increased negative experiences based on minimal community acceptance, few affirming and diversity-educated mental health provider options, and negative provider reactions. The knowledge generated from this study could lead to increased awareness of the insidious environmental trauma experienced by NH individuals in rural conservative areas and reduce the disparities for this population by improving provider awareness and services.