Depression is more common than you might think. It affects many people in a variety of ways and is a serious, recognized condition. Gay/bisexual men are at greater risk for mental health problems. When depression happens, it quickly takes hold in the form of a series of mutually reinforcing habits. Depressed behavior in the form of avoidance and social withdrawal reinforces depressed feelings and the lethargy that often accompanies depression.
It can be hard to open up and be honest about how you are really feeling. You may be used to putting on a ‘front’ with others and pretending you are fine. However, this leaves you feeling isolated and alone, which makes things worse. These are some of the ways that talking to someone can make a difference:
- Unburdening yourself – It can be a great relief to get things off your chest. For some people it helps a lot if they know things will be kept confidential (eg. talking to a professional).
- Getting perspective – Voicing thoughts or fears is very useful in making sense of them and putting them into perspective.
- Easing isolation – Dropping the mask, being honest and connecting with someone else on a real level helps to counter the isolating effect of depression.
- Care and compassion – If you choose well who to talk to, you are much more likely to be offered care and compassion than the rejection or ridicule you may fear.
- Useful advice – Depending on who you talk to, you may get some useful help or advice in return – and even if some of it isn’t useful, remember you don’t have to take it!
- Strategies and ways forward –Talking and openness shines a bright light onto depression’s distortions and lies. As you talk, you start to develop understanding and strategies for tackling depression.
- Support network – Different people offer different kinds of support, so talking to different people can help build up a useful support network.
Having a supportive group of friends and family members is often key to successfully dealing with the stressors of day-to-day life and maintaining good mental health. People who are unable to get social support from their friends and families can find it by becoming involved in community, social, athletic, religious, and other groups. Mental health counseling and support groups that are sensitive to the needs of gay/bi men can be especially useful to those who are coming to terms with their sexual orientation or experiencing depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems.
The stigma of depression can keep people from reaching out to a professional. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness or failure. Many gay and bisexual men also may not seek care from a mental health provider because of a fear from discrimination or homophobia. There are many mental health professionals who specialize in issues affecting LGBTQ individuals. It is important to seek help and try to find a provider that you can trust.
Project HIM offers CLEAR. A free counseling workshop for gay/bisexual men living with HIV. In CLEAR, you’ll work one-on-one with a counselor to practice skills and set goals that empower you to live the life you choose.
For additional help and information, please visit Project HIM’s Resources page.