By Joe Williams
A new survey has found disturbingly high levels of depression, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts among gay men.
The survey – published in FS magazine – surveyed over 600 men to learn more about depression and poor mental health in the gay community.
The survey found that 24% of gay men admitted to trying to kill themselves, while 54% admitted to having suicidal thoughts.
A further 70% said low self-esteem was the main reason for their depression and suicidal thoughts.
Other factors included relationship issues (56%), isolation (53%), not feeling attractive (49%).
These stresses were often directly related to their sexuality, with 41% of gay men saying that it contributed to their poor mental or emotional health.
27% cited homophobic bullying; 22% mentioned struggling to come out and 21% said that rejection by their family had also been a factor.
The survey also found that gay men who are diagnosed with HIV experience high rates of depression and suicidal thoughts.
When HIV-positive respondents were asked their main reasons for feeling suicidal, 66% said living with HIV was the main issue with low self-esteem (60%) and relationship issues (39%) also common reasons.
“HIV remains one of the most stigmatised of all health conditions,” said Matthew Hodson, Chief Executive of GMFA – the gay men’s health charity who conducted the study.
“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.
He also said that men without HIV increase their risks of catching the virus, as their mood can influence the precautions they take before sex.
“Depression also has an impact on someone’s likelihood of becoming HIV-positive,” he explained.
“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.”