FS Magazine Upfront Gay men are 5 times more likely to kill themselves. Who cares? Editor’s letter #149 by Ian Howley @IanHowley Photo © www.flickr.com/photos/foreverphoto What do you think when you hear the words “Shocking stats show gay men more likely to be depressed and suicidal”? Chances are you take a deep breath and casually say to yourself “Why am I not surprised?” That’s because the chances are you are one of the many gay men who have at some point battled with depression or suicidal thoughts. It’s the same for me. It’s been 15 years since my last suicide attempt. At age 16 I tried to end it all because I was stuck in a deep depression due to my sexuality. I hated being gay. I hated myself and I wanted a way out. It wasn’t my first attempt either. I tried to kill myself at age 13 and 14 too. It’s difficult to look back now and relate to that young boy looking for a way out. My life has changed so much in 15 years. At the time it felt like I was the only person in the world feeling that way. I thought everyone was going to hate me because of my sexuality. I didn’t see a future – well, actually I did. I thought it was going to be a miserable and lonely one. I thought I’d never be in a relationship or have any meaningful friends. How wrong was I? The sad fact is that now at the age of 31 and with a wealth of knowledge of what gay men go through, I know I wasn’t the only one feeling that way. I’ve heard many stories throughout the years from gay men who say to me “I’ve had the same experience.” And it’s not till you live a little and look back that you see that many of us seemed to have had a similar journey. And the fact that’s not shocking is shocking in itself. How has it come to the point where we as a community accept that being depressed or suicidal at some point in our lives is like a ‘rite of passage’? How is it that when another survey is released saying we are ‘five times more likely to try and kill ourselves than our straight peers’ we shrug our shoulders and move on. It’s what life is like for gay men, isn’t it? Now that’s a sad thought. In our ‘gay men and mental health survey’ 24% of the gay men who responded said they had tried to kill themselves while 56% said they thought about it. While citing many reasons for their thoughts and actions, it became clear that it’s more than just sexuality that’s the issue for gay men, although sexuality has a big part to play. A study by PACE found that early experiences of ‘feeling different’ appear to create vulnerability and are a key factor in developing low self-esteem for gay and bisexual men. In our survey gay men cited ‘low self-esteem’ as the main reason for their depression and suicidal thoughts. Low self-esteem has also been indentified as a factor as to why gay men do drugs, drink more alcohol, have poor body image issues and have risky sex, to name just a few. I don’t know about you, but It’s clear to me that something major needs to be done about tackling low self-esteem. But what can be done? I don’t have the magic answer. It’s easy to ask the question. It’s difficult to find the answer. One thing is for sure – we need to work on helping gay men, and especially young gay men, feel better about themselves. But first I’d like you to read the main feature from this issue. 606 gay men responded honestly to our survey. They wanted to share their stories in a bid to help other gay men realise that they are not alone. The first thing to do when trying to fix a problem is admitting you have one. So, hello gay people... we have a problem. Ian Howley Editor, FS magzine @IanHowley This article was taken from FS issue #149.