It’s World Mental Health Week.The world has changed a lot in the last couple of decades. I think going into lockdown has forced us to talk more freely, ask for help more and not be embarrassed of raising your voice when it comes to mental health. Although we have made significant strides in talking openly about mental health issues as a community and as a society, it’s still often taboo, and we may feel that the support services available are limited and don’t cater to the LGBTQ+ community.
A recent study by GMFA (Gay Men’s Health Charity) found that 95% of respondents said that they had experienced depression, anxiety or other mental health issues. When understanding some of the root cases to why they had poor mental health these were the findings:
- 65% said they have low self-esteem
- 52% told us that a relationship or relationships was the cause
- 51% said they don’t feel attractive
- 46% said isolation
- 39% said it’s because of their sexuality
- 38% said issues around their employment status
- 33% said money worries
- 31% said it was their sex life
- 28% said social media pressures
- 25% said struggling with coming out
- 25% said dating/sex apps
- 20% said death of loved one
- 18% said homophobic bullying
- 18% said bullying in general
- 17% said rejection by family
- 13% said rejection by community
- 12% said prejudice
- 8% said religious reasons
- 8% said living with an HIV diagnosis
- 7% said fear of HIV
- 5% said addiction to alcohol
- 3% said addiction to drugs
Five Times More Likely to Suffer
These statistics are shocking but true to what is happening within the LGBTQ community. It’s a horrifying statistic to think that an LGBTQ person is five times more likely to suffer from conditions of mental health. This is supported by the government who claim that 52% of young LGBT people reported self-harm either recently or in the past. This is compared to 25% of heterosexual non-trans young people and 44% of young LGBT people have considered suicide compared to 26% of heterosexual non-trans young people (gov.uk official statistics)
One of the issues I wanted to explore was the significant contribution of social media and dating apps. There seems to be increasing pressure on the LGBTQ+ community. While this isn’t something new to our community (we are always early adopters), it’s become apparent the pressures from these platforms are reaching deeper and wider.
Particularly in the gay community, sex and the use of apps to find it are accepted as a necessity. And with the younger generation of people who are reliant on apps for meets, people’s perceptions and expectations have changed. If you don’t adhere to a certain type of category as defined by the person on their app profile you can and will be blocked and opportunities to meet may never arise. I have experienced this numerous times “Blocked”- A Story of Racism on The Dating Apps
This level of expectation and perceived rejection can undermine someone with limited self-confidence and lead to further complications and nervousness about meeting people generally.
Another topic that runs deep is perceived body image, particularly in the gay community, with more than half of people thinking that they are not attractive (51%). There seems to be a constant pressure in the gay community to look a certain way. In my experience there always seemed the pressure of being topless in a club, or having the body on show and having well defined muscular features. The pressure to look good, ‘live your best life’, and be everything that someone ‘should’ be is too much. I felt like there were too many factors contributing to the ideal type of gay, or gay man.
Whatever the reason you’re feeling insecure or at that point you want to ask for help, make sure you do. Only recently did I pluck up the courage to seek counselling myself. I think going into lockdown last year really did take a toll on my mental health. Looking at the list from the GMFA I can personally relate to several of those issues as to why I felt insecure. Knowing that you are not the only one going through these problems is important. We need to be more open in our community and to share our difficult journeys of self acceptance and love.
There’s Plenty of Help Out There
While researching this blog I realised that there are a lot of support groups and services available for all members of the LGBTQ Community. What’s reassuring is that there are a number of services you can opt for: group support, 1-on1 or try a mentoring program to help you tackle your issues. To be honest it may be worth exploring a few of these to see what type of counselling and support you need. Everyone is going to be different in their own personal reasons for counselling and seeking help. Some people will need the support of others and shared experiences to help them; while others will want the confidentiality and privacy of a 1-on-1 counselor or therapist.
Make sure that you do not suffer in silence. As the statistics tell us these issues have always been around in the LGBTQ community and in my personal experience lockdown has made me realise that having counselling or group support is not something to be ashamed about. Here are some counselling services below;
Some Counselling Options
Written by David James D’Souza
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