Coming out is difficult for a lot of people. Yes, there are plenty of communities out there where your sexuality doesn’t matter, but there are also small pockets where your attraction to others is a problem for them. It might not change their life in any way, but bisexual and gay men in particular are struggling to find acceptance.
This often means that a number of people aren’t comfortable coming out. They feel like it is better to instead keep it in, to deny who they are, rather than risk being shunned and judged for being who they are. This can lead to a lot of problems for people, and their mental health, in particular, is at risk.
Sure, it might seem like your sexuality isn’t an issue any more, but there are some places and communities where it is. A recent study has revealed just how much of a problem it is still, as they have discovered that young bisexual and gay men are more likely to attempt self-harm or suicide than their older counterparts. We take a look at the study in more detail.
The Stonewall survey
Stonewall, a charity supporting “acceptance without exception”, are keen to show the world that, while there has been a great deal of progress for the LGBT movement, it still isn’t enough. There are plenty of communities out there that still have issues with you if you aren’t straight, despite the fact that your sexuality has absolutely no bearing on anything.
They conducted the Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health Survey, which received responses from 6,861 men across Britain. They said that it was “the largest survey ever conducted of gay and bisexual men’s health needs in the world”, and they released the Scottish findings to show where certain needs are not being met.
The survey uncovered a lot of surprising results, but they found that there were particular areas of concern that were being overlooked. They stated that health services “often focus solely on gay men’s sexual health”, rather than their mental health. This, it seems, has created a problem that we absolutely need to address.
The mental health of bisexual and gay men
In the introduction to the survey, Stonewall immediately makes it clear how big of an issue the lack of mental health support for bisexual and gay men is. They state that the report “provides hard evidence that gay and bisexual Scots have high rates of attempted suicide and are more likely to self-harm and have depression than their straight peers”.
This is a very distressing and disturbing claim, and the responses they received to the survey confirm that mental health is a huge hurdle for the LGBT community that simply isn’t being addressed. One in seven of those surveyed (14% in total) stated that they had “moderate to severe levels of mixed depression and anxiety”.
The worrying thing is that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Self-harm and suicide
Self-harm is also a big problem. 6% of those surveyed, which works out at around one in sixteen, said that they had “deliberately harmed themselves in the last year”. The statistics are worse for young bisexual and gay men, as it seems that 14% (one in seven) of those aged 16 to 19 had done the same.
Anxiety, depression, and self-harm are all big problems that need to be resolved, but there was a bigger question on the agenda. Stonewall wanted to know how many had attempted suicide. A shocking 51% said that they had, at some point, “felt life was not worth living”. 3% of gay men and 7% of bisexual men in Scotland stated that they had attempted to take their own life and commit suicide.
It seems that, for young bisexual and gay men, things are even more challenging, as 6% of them said that they had “attempted to take their own life in the last year”.
Why are the numbers so high?
There are so many factors that could result in the numbers for anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide attempts being so high. For some, it is simply that they don’t feel as though they are accepted and that they don’t have a safe place to go to talk about these issues.
Stonewall found that many of those involved in the survey felt “that they can’t talk openly to GPs and other healthcare workers” about their problems, with some of them concerned that their right to confidentiality with their GP will be ignored. To put it simply, there is very little trust in healthcare professionals.
It doesn’t help that so many people think of health issues and the LGBT community and they immediately think of sexual health. This is an issue too, but the big concern for many is actually mental health. It is about time that we started to address the issue.
The rest of the survey contains a lot of shocking facts, but hopefully this is the start of things changing for the better.
Mental Health Awareness Week
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, so there is no better time to talk about the issues that face people. Given how many are struggling to deal with mental health because of a lack of support, it is important for things to change.
If you feel as though you aren’t getting the help that you need, there are a number of different people you can contact. To start with, talk to someone. Try talking to your friends about how you are feeling and to your GP. Most people hate visiting their GP to talk mental health because a lot of healthcare professionals aren’t as aware on mental health issues as anything else. However, it is the first step, and there are other places to go if you need help.
Those looking for help will find a number of people to talk to. You can talk to Support In Mind, who have a range of services you can get involved in. There is also the SAMH for Scotland’s mental health.
Want to get involved in some events? Check out the Stonewall Scotland seminars and conferences that you can attend.
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