For decades, homosexuality was regarded as a mental illness, for which treatments could include aversion therapy and electric shock treatment. Thankfully we now live in more enlightened times, and in 1990 homosexuality was finally removed from the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) as a mental disorder.
However, the effects of personal, cultural and institutional homophobia mean that a significant number of lesbian, gay and bisexual people can experience periods of poor mental health. They may be dealing with stress about coming out to homophobic family members, neighbours, schoolmates or work colleagues; or juggling a kind of ‘double life’ where they are trying to manage who knows and who doesn’t know their sexual orientation; or simply denying and suppressing their sexuality entirely except perhaps for fleeting, anonymous sex encounters. It needs to be understood that it is actually not homosexuality but other people’s real or perceived HOMOPHOBIA that is the real problem here. A British Journal of psychiatry study of 1,285 gay and bisexual men and women in 2004 found that just under a third had attempted suicide. 83% of respondents said they had experienced either damage to property, personal attacks or verbal insults in the last five years, or insults and bullying at school, and over 40% had a clinically recognised mental health problem. The study said that there was a “likely link” between the experience of discrimination and the subsequent mental health problem.
Of course LGBT people are also subject to most of the same kind of stresses and problems that sometimes cause poor mental health in heterosexual people, such as illness, bereavement, loneliness, financial difficulties, workplace stress and relationship breakdowns.
to help others