Sexuality and Depression: Where to Find Support

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Social stigma, lack of access to mental health supports, bullying, discrimination and shame can worsen the effects of depression in gay men.

Estimates of depression among members of LGB + communities vary widely. There is some evidence to suggest that rates of depression are similar to those of members of heterosexual communities. In contrast, other studies indicate much higher rates.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, surveys have found higher suicide rates among young people in the United States who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Depression is a complex disease. Researchers have not identified a single cause explaining all cases of depression.

Most of the evidence suggests that a number of factors contribute to the development of depression. These include physical health issues, genetic and family history, lifestyle factors, and environmental factors such as trauma and discrimination.

Some factors may play a role:

  • Harassment and discrimination: A 2014 survey of youth who identified as LGBQ found that 74% had experienced verbal harassment in school and 17% reported physical assault.
  • Rejection: Rejection by loved ones, especially parents, increases the risk of depression among gay youth.
  • Stress and trauma: Both stress and trauma are risk factors for depression. Homosexuals are more likely experience certain traumas, such as discrimination, harassment and rejection.
  • Physical health: Gay and bisexual men are at greater risk of contracting HIV. Members of the gay community tend to have worst results and face more discrimination in health care. It can lead to poor health. Physical health problems are also a risk factor for depression.
  • Heterosexism: The idea that heterosexuality is the default norm or the norm can affect the well-being of gay people. Some homosexuals can internalize heterosexist beliefs. They may experience shame and conflict about their identity and sexual choices.

Estimates of rates of depression in the gay community vary widely. In addition, more recent studies often cluster LGBTQ identities. It is therefore difficult to identify a constant rate of depression among homosexuals.

Some recent data includes:

While mental health support is vital to overall health, many members of the gay community find that access to mental health care heightens feelings of depression and stigma. This is especially true in teens and gay children, who may face parental rejection when seeking help.

Gay adults can be rejected when their mental health care providers are insensitive to their identity and experiences.

Some options for getting help:

  • School guidance centers: Students who cannot afford to pay for help can find help from a school guidance counselor or college counseling center.
  • Local support organizations: LGBTQIA + support organizations may be able to connect a person with helpful resources. They also offer identity support which can help a person feel less stigmatized or lonely.
  • Support groups: Support groups specifically for gay men with mental health issues can help a person develop coping skills and meaningful friendships.
  • Affirm therapy: People considering therapy should ask a potential therapist if they assert non-heterosexual identities.
  • Medication: Depression is more than just an emotional state – it’s a medical condition. Antidepressants can help a person feel better. They can be especially helpful in improving mood while a person is in therapy.

The GLBT National Help Center has a dedicated collection of resources to help people find support groups, communities and other sources of information in their area.

Learn more about mental health resources for LGBTQIA + people here.

People who have thoughts and feelings of suicide can try a number of strategies to help them:

  • Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
  • Make a commitment not to self-harm for a period of time, for example 24 or 48 hours.
  • Ask for help. Contact a trusted friend, therapist, or doctor.
  • Avoid being alone. Try to stay with a loved one.
  • Call 911 or go to the emergency room if the urge to harm is overwhelming. Emergency medical care can open up treatment options for prompt care.

People who help a loved one who is having thoughts of suicide should:

  • Listen carefully. Don’t dismiss the person’s feelings or problems. Don’t make fun of them or suggest that they seek attention.
  • Take the risk seriously. Suggest strategies to reduce the risk, such as arranging a visit.
  • Ask the person if they have a plan. Knowing about a person’s self-harm plan can make it easier for them to help.
  • Ask for help. Call a suicide hotline for further help.
  • Be united. Offer to go with him to therapy or help him get treatment.
  • Avoid arguing. Try not to be confrontational, but encourage them to keep talking.

Depression is a serious and potentially fatal illness. It is not a choice and it is not something that a person can talk to each other about.

Although social factors can contribute to depression, the right support can help a person deal with an unfavorable or discriminatory environment and reduce symptoms of depression.


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