Society, in general, is often not kind to those that don’t fit traditional norms and roles. While many parts of the country are becoming more accepting of the LGBT community, gay rights and societal acceptance still have a long way to go. Many gay men still face discrimination and are associated with negative stigma. It’s not surprising then that gay men are roughly three times as likely to experience more mental health issues as heterosexual men.
Some common mental health issues experienced by gay men include:
- Generalized anxiety
- Bipolar disorder
In the Closet or Out?
Is it more stressful being “in the closet”, or out? Well, that depends on your social environment. Many gay men find that keeping their true sexual identity hidden from co-workers, or family and friends is a stressful ordeal. Many live in fear that their homosexuality will be revealed.
Others who have come out may experience a sense of relief if they are surrounded by supportive people. However, some environments are less than ideal and being openly gay may be cause for discrimination, prejudice, and denial of equal rights — factors which all contribute to poorer mental health.
Other Risk Factors
Gay men are also more prone to exposure to illicit drugs and alcohol abuse. Substance abuse is of course linked to overall poor mental health. Gay men are more likely to have tried to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. Gay youth, in particular, those under age 24, are three times as likely to try to commit suicide. Many gay men report having had poor experiences with their doctor when accessing primary care. They fear ridicule and judgment and are reluctant to seek help for mental health issues.
How to Find Help
If you or a loved one needs professional help, where do you begin? It can seem like an overwhelming and intimidating process to find a therapist or counselor you can trust. Many healthcare providers have not been trained and educated in LGBT issues, so it’s important to find one who is comfortable and experienced in dealing with this area.
You can begin by asking trusted friends or family for referrals. A good resource to check out is the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s Provider Directory for a medical expert in your area. Another list to look at is The Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists.
Once you’ve found a healthcare provider you feel comfortable with, you might like to bring a friend along to your appointment for support. Try to be as honest and upfront with your doctor about your experiences and feelings as possible. To learn more about how we can help or to talk to a therapist, call or contact us today at 202-641-5335.