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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Are there higher rates of depression within the gay community?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Dr Louise Shepherd

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    I am a clinical psychologist with 15 years experience working with all sorts of goals and issues. I love working with people, helping them to … View Profile

    I have been looking at this question for a few days and thinking it was a good one and that I didn't really know the answer. My gut feeling is yes. So I looked a bit further. The article in the Age newspaper talks about the alarmingly high rates of depression for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people. This fits with my clinical experience.

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/depression-rates-higher-for-gays/2006/03/30/1143441279515.html

    http://ultimo167.wordpress.com/articles-on-men/how-gay-men-talk-about-depression/

    And in working with many gay men over the past decade or so I'd say that it is experienced in slightly different ways - these are just my observations:
    - coming out is an enormously stressful and confronting experience for many. Often there are overwhelming emotions such as anixety and shame and this can lead to depression, particularly if the person struggles with the feelings they are having. And people react differently - some very well and others shockingly. (see my other answer today about when is a good time to tell people about sexuality).
    - we don't live in a fair world. Some people, fortunately a lot less than in the past, still do discriminate. So whilst it is easier these days in many ways to be gay it is also still not 100% acceptable to 100% of the population - hopefully with time this will just get better and better.
    - often (this is my experience in what many men and women have told me in therapy) there are many very sad experiences growing up related to sexuality and this has lead to an increased vulnerabilty for depression and anixiety. 

    I have often recommended a book called “The velvet rage” which is all about “growing up gay in a straight man's world” - it speaks a lot about shame and how the experience of being gay has affected a man's experience of himself growing up. Many guys that have read it really relate to a lot of what they read.

    I hope some of this helps to answer your question :-)

  • Colleen Morris

    Psychologist

    Colleen Morris is a Clinical Family Therapist and Counsellor in Geelong, Victoria. Colleen works with individuals, couples and families, to promote growth, wellness and potential. … View Profile

    I’d say absolutely, even though in 2012 the gay community is being more socially accepted. I think the gay experience still individually can be a very isolating one. Having to go through life with not knowing how people are going to behave towards you can be unpredictable. If you’re going to apply for a job, for instance, we would say that this should be discrimination but I expect for the gay experience it’s not quite that black and white. People aren’t predictable in their biases and judgment and views.

    A gay person can experience a lot of misunderstanding and a lot of social life relations and prejudices as a result. Certainly research says that experience for the gay community contributes to high rates of depression, anxiety and self-harm. So that’s something to be aware of if we have people in our own lives that may be gay.

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    Navida Aslam

    Counsellor

    I am a kind and passionate human being who likes to take care of everybody who is in pain. I specialise in providing relief from … View Profile

    It is quite possible that there are higher rates of depression. It could be quite possible because if people don't accept you as you are in the society, it is sometimes difficult (not just for the gay community but for anybody). It also depends on how strong the individual is. This discrimination can be found anywhere and in any context. Just think that, in a country like Australia………“It is usually a Fair Go” for everyone, so the people who discriminate with skin colour, cultural background, ethnicity or gender have a problem themselves. I always believe that the people who show partiality, did not have an opportunity to receive a good bringing up. They need help themselves.

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    Victoria Cooke

    Psychologist

    The short answer is yes there are higher rates. I recently helped with a research project conducted by Beyond Blue  within the GLBTI community asking the community about their experiences of anxiety and depression. The results of this research were similar to that which was conducted by La Trobe university. They found something like GLBTI are twice as likely to experience depression and three times more likely to experience anxiety disorders than the heterosexual community.

    It is imperative however, to understand that being same sex attracted is not a mental health problem in itself, but rather, the descrimination, both overt and covert from the community that contributes to experiencing depression and anxiety. Unfortunately the world is heterocentric: everything that we see in the world about sexualty whether it's advertising, films, and health care promotion is from the point of view of a heterosexual couple. This only serves to alienate the GLBTI community. The world assumes that you are heterosexual unless you say otherwise and this causes some people a great deal of distress, but for many others it's an annoying and exhausting part of life that one has to live with.

  • My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    The most recent study that I can find (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22771037) suggests that the answer is “probably yes”.




  • Ash Rehn

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Sex Therapist, Social Worker

    Mental Health Medicare Provider of focussed psychological strategies, Counsellor & Therapist specialising in ‘sex addiction’, pornography issues, gay counselling, online therapy. For more information: www.ForwardTherapy.com View Profile

    What is ‘the Gay Community’?

    Does a single, homogenous ‘community’ exist, or is this an idea that makes it possible to talk about a group of people as if they are all the same? (when perhaps they are not!)

    There is some research evidence that lesbians and gay men are at risk of experiencing higher rates of depression than people who do not identify as lesbian or gay. However, that it is not to say that there is anything about same-sex orientation that causes depression. For example, there is also research that indicates lesbians and gay men suffer more improper treatment and discrimination from mental health professionals than general populations. It is just as important to understand the protective factors for lesbian and gay mens mental health as the so called risk factors.

    Let's not forget that up to the 1970s (and even later in some states of Australia), homosexuality was psychopathologised. That means that many mental health professionals, doctors, counsellors and psychologists were treating homosexuality as if it was a disease. So is it any wonder some lesbians and gay men have mental illnesses as a result of such stigma and discrimination?

    We also know that development of positive identity for gay and lesbian people leads to adjustment and life satisfaction and that older gay people who participate in activities with other LGBT folk appear to enjoy higher levels of psychological well-being.*

    So let's not write off the entire lesbian and gay population as at risk of depression. Many of us are doing quite well! For many people, it does get better!

    http://www.youtube.com/user/itgetsbetterproject


    * reference: Hunter, Ski (2005) Midlife and Older LGBT Adults: Knowledge and Affirmative Practice for the Social Services. Binghamton, Haworth.


  • Colin Longworth

    Psychologist

    Is a Generalist Psychologist, who is able to provide counselling services under Medicare (with a GP referral) as well as Telehealth and Clinical Hypnotherapy. He … View Profile

    The quick answer to the question is yes. Beyond Blue (www.beyondblue.com.au ) has a specific sub-section of their website on this subject.
    (See http://www.beyondblue.org.au/resources/for-me/gay-lesbian-bi-trans-and-intersex-glbti-people )

    It is probably also worth looking at what can be done to reduce depression for those whom the “fickle finger of fate” has determined are Lesbian or Gay.

    One thing that everyone can do in relation to Gay or Lesbian people is to not participate in the Heterosexual double standard or playing the game I once saw described as:
    “I-know-they-know,-and-they-know,-I-know-they-know,-but-let's-all-pretend-nobody-knows”.

    In other words we all know your Gay or Lesbian, but let’s pretend we don't, let’s make it the unspoken secret. For Gays and Lesbians not playing the “game” can be to “come out” (but only, when you feel comfortable, doing so). For those who are not Gay and Lesbian but have friends or others in their life who are, (e.g. a Gay/Lesbian branch on the Family Tree) this can mean asking about that person's Gay/Lesbian life.

    From my decades of volunteer experience on a Gay Lesbian telephone counselling and information line (apart from what I know as a Psychologist), I would also say a fairly important thing for Gays and Lesbians (apart from “Coming Out” which is positively related to better Mental Health) is to get involved with the local Gay and Lesbian community. There are in most states some local equivalent to Gay and Lesbian Community Services of WA (www.glcs.org.au) which can a good starting point for making contact with the “Gay and Lesbian community”.

    So the bottom line for my suggestion to deal with depression for Gays and Lesbian people, is to “Come out” (when you are ready and seek professional help in relation to that if need be) and become involved with the local Gay and Lesbian Community, to reduce your social isolation from others in a “similar boat”.

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