Results of a survey by gay mens health charity GMFA and FS Magazine, have revealed that 50% of gay men who have experienced depression have contemplated suicide, with 24% of men surveyed stating that they had attempted to take their own lives.
70% of the 600 men who responded to the survey cited low self esteem as the main reason for their depression, with relationship problems, isolation and not feeling attractive being named as leading contributing factors. 27% of gay men surveyed identified homophobic bullying as being the main reason for their depression.
In most cases it’s usually not one single issue that leads to a depressive episode, but a toxic combination of a number of things.
Tom, 22 from Birmingham was one of the men surveyed: “I think my depressive episodes are often triggered by failings in my relationships, which in turn are often caused by my extremely low self-esteem.”
It may not come as a surprise that the survey also revealed that those men diagnosed with HIV suffered higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts. Living with HIV was the most common reason cited for feeling suicidal or attempting suicide.
Ian Howley, editor for FS magazine said: “For many of the gay men who filled in our ‘Gay Men & Mental Health’ survey, living with HIV is a big factor in their mental health difficulties. Many told us that their diagnosis threw their lives into chaos, with many becoming depressed and suicidal.”
James, 20, one of the HIV-positive men who took part in the survey said: “My results came back as positive and my world crashed. I was given leaflets but nothing about the impact the diagnosis would have on me, I thought my life was over…Since my diagnosis my mental health has plummeted. I feel very low these days and i can’t see it getting better.”
Ravi, a 29 year old from Bradford, is also HIV-positive and told the survey about the effect of his diagnosis on him as a muslim: “When I was told I had HIV I had to deal with what my family would think. I come from a Muslim family and they are just about okay with me being gay. Telling them I have HIV is not possible. It would bring great shame on them. I think about killing myself every day because of this.”
“HIV remains one of the most stigmatised of all health conditions.” Matthew Hodson the Chief Executive of GMFA said.
“Rates of depression among gay men with HIV are twice as high as they are among other gay men, affecting about one in every four men.”
Matthew went on to say that depression has an impact on someone’s likelihood of becoming HIV-Positive: “A recent study showed that men with depressive symptoms were more likely to have unprotected sex, and to have unprotected sex with several partners. Tackling the mental health challenges faced by gay men is crucial if we are going to reduce the high levels of sexual risk-taking and high incidence of HIV in our community.”
For more on the survey and for support for gay men, visit the GMFA website: www.gmfa.org.uk
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