Of the smorgasbord of mental health news in my email box this morning was a press release on a UCLA study that found lesbians, gays and bisexuals are twice as likely as heterosexual men and women to seek help from mental health professionals. I do not find this surprising.
The ignorant masses out there – who believe that homosexuality is an unholy plague – probably aren’t surprised either. They will likely claim that the study is proof that homosexuality is an illness and that these people really want to be “cured.”
I see it differently. According to the study, gays, lesbians and bisexual are twice as likely as heterosexual men and women to seek help from mental health professionals. Researchers collected data on 2,074 people for a new survey known as the California Quality of Life Survey. They found that 48.5 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals reported receiving treatment in the past year, compared with 22.5 percent of heterosexuals. Overall, lesbians and bisexual women were most likely to receive treatment, and heterosexual men were least likely.
“This is consistent with emerging findings from national surveys showing that many individuals who receive mental health treatment do not have a diagnosable disorder but may have other symptoms, such as psychological distress or impairments in functioning, that lead them to seek care,” according to the press release.
Another explanation could be, “discrimination, violence and other stressful life events may be greater among sexual and gender minorities and homosexuality and issues associated with it may be construed as mental health problems — particularly among racial and ethnic minorities — which may encourage people to seek treatment. Further, in gay and lesbian communities, therapeutic services are considered appropriate places for coping with the stresses associated with being a sexual minority.”
It could also be that gays, lesbians and bisexual are braver and smarter than the rest of us. The gays, lesbians and bisexual folks I know have some serious to-thine-own-self-be-true fortitude and perseverance – way more than a lot of heterosexuals I know. And you must have patience and tolerance of steel to put up with the harassment, ignorance and stigma that sill exists against gays, lesbians and bisexuals.
They – and I hate using the “they” label – do not let stigma and ignorance stand in way of seeking help. So, it is only logical that more gays and lesbians are smart and brave enough to get help for their own mental health concerns.
I am a heterosexual woman but I will be the first one to raise my hand and admit that before my diagnosis I secretly sneered and rolled my eyes at people with depression. I had to put myself in an emotional half-nelson before I sought help. I just wish I had been smarter and braver.