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New study explores gay domestic violence

domestic violence, gay news, Washington Blade

A new study from PLoS ONE reports findings on the effects of domestic violence in GBT men.

NEW YORK — A new study from PLoS ONE reports findings on the effects of domestic violence in GBT men, Medical Daily reports.

Researchers looked at a collection of 19 studies on the various effects of domestic violence on MSM and found that 48 percent of those reviewed had been exposed to domestic violence reporting alcohol and drug abuse, symptoms of depression, higher rates of HIV and more incidents of unprotected sex, the Daily reports.

Although many victims of abuse tend to develop these problems, the problem may be exacerbated for MSM, considering that they are not only more likely to contract HIV (63 percent of new infections were among MSM in 2010), but also because the rates of infection are rising among the group — 22 percent among young MSM and 12 percent overall between 2008 and 2010, the Daily article said. In all, about 489,121 people living with HIV at the end of 2010 were either MSM or MSM and injection drug users, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And risky sexual behavior — the kind that doesn’t involve wearing protection — is a major contributor to the problem, the Daily article said.


Robin Williams’ depression a familiar battle

Robin Williams, depression, gay news, Washington Blade

Actor Robin Williams took his own life this week after a long battle with depression. (Photo by Eva Rinaldi; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

I am among the untold numbers of people who remain deeply saddened by the death of Robin Williams, who took his own life in his home outside San Francisco on Aug. 11. I sat stunned on the couch in the den of our Dupont Circle apartment as my partner and I watched news reports that indicated the celebrated actor and comedian committed suicide after suffering from what some have described as “severe depression.”

Reading the details of how Williams hanged himself with a belt in the bedroom of his Marin County home nearly brought me to tears.

This tragic news hit too close to home because I am among the millions of Americans who live with some form of depression.

My doctor diagnosed me with the disorder in September 2012 after I sent him a late night e-mail in which I admitted that I was likely experiencing many of the symptoms associated with depression: mood swings and a lack of energy in particular. The best way I can categorize this disorder for those who are fortunate enough not to live with it is that it is comparable to walking through a thick fog that leaves you disoriented and saps your strength.

I had done enough research before reaching out to my doctor to understand that I had likely lived with the disorder for quite some time. I had — and continue to have — a very fulfilling personal and professional life and a family that unconditionally accepts me as a gay man, so there was no reason for me to feel so bad.

I simply reached a point where I wanted to confirm my own suspicions and do something about it.

I am fortunate enough to live with a mild form of depression that allows me to function normally with a low dose of prescription medication that costs less than $2 a month with insurance that I am privileged enough to have. I am also fortunate enough to have a doctor and a partner who continue to remind me there is nothing wrong with me simply because I am living with a disorder.

There are days when I struggle with mood swings and a lack of energy for no apparent reason, but overall I am able to life my life on my own terms without any disruptions.

Others who live with depression are far less fortunate.

I have never been someone who wants people to feel sorry for me, and I certainly don’t expect anyone to start now because I have publicly discussed the fact that I live with depression. It is simply a part of my story.

Williams’ untimely death provides a stark reminder that millions of people in this country and around the world live with this disorder, and some of them unfortunately lose their struggle. I celebrate this amazing man on the sad occasion of his untimely death and keep those who live with depression and struggle with it in my thoughts.


Del. organizers mobilize for LGBT youth

teen suicide, gay news, Washington Blade, lgbt youth

As many as 64 percent of LGBT youth are likely to suffer from depression, suicide attempts and substance abuse.

DOVER, Del. — Organizations in Delaware are joining to implement intervention services in schools there in the wake of a National School Climate survey reporting that as many as 64 percent of LGBT youth are likely to suffer from depression, suicide attempts and substance abuse, the Belleville News-Democrat reports.

The Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families in conjunction with Delaware Guidance Services for Children and Youth formed an informal task force two months ago to combat the problems LGBT youth face from their peers and society, the article said.

“We want to promote awareness in a non-threatening way. You can’t deny the facts, and the data that show our youth are struggling,” Yolanda Jenkins, an administrator at the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families, was quoted as having said.

The department and Delaware Guidance Services provide similar services in regard to suicide prevention so it was a natural fit for the two to work together on the initiative started by the state, the News-Democrat reports.



Study quantifies bullying effects in students

A screen shot from the movie 'Bully,' which highlights the problems faced by many kids in schools today.

A screen shot from the movie ‘Bully,’ which highlights the problems faced by many kids in schools today.

NEW YORK — Students targeted because they’re believed to be gay — as many as one in seven young teens — are much more likely than others to be suicidal and depressed, a new survey finds according to a report in Health magazine.

More than 10 percent of eighth-grade boys and girls reported that they’re victimized because of perceived sexual orientation, according to a large survey of students in Washington State, the article said.

“It has a profound impact on their quality of life and the way they think of themselves,” Donald Patrick, a professor of health services at the University of Washington in Seattle, was quoted as saying in the article. “Those in eighth grade are in a particularly vulnerable position.”

These children “feel alone in life, that they don’t feel as good as other people and their self-esteem is highly affected,” Patrick told Health.

The survey results were published online May 16 in the American Journal of Public Health. The study is based on a 2010 survey of nearly 28,000 students in grades eight, 10 and 12. Among boys, 14 percent of eighth-graders, 11 percent of 10th-graders and 9 percent of 12th-graders reported being bullied within the previous month because they were thought to be gay, the article noted. The numbers were 11 percent, 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively, for girls.


Gov’t data lacking on LGBT needs: study

LGBT Health, gay news, Washington Blade

More data is needed to effectively address health challenges faced by LGBT Americans. (Public domain image)

BOSTON — An article in the Atlantic that explores LGBT health issues over the last 40 years said higher rates of alcoholism, cancer, depression, smoking, suicide and violence stem in large part from not having reliable government-collected data on LGBT Americans.

“Having government-level research acknowledge the existence of sexual minorities has been incredibly controversial,” said Dr. Gregory Herek, a professor of psychology at the University of California. He recalled that the earliest attempt to include data on LGBT citizens, in the 1990 Hate Crimes Statistics Act, was “vehemently opposed” by anti-gay Sen. Jesse Helms and his counterpart in the House, Rep. William Dannemayer. “They didn’t want the numbers used by the ‘gay agenda’ to promote the size of the LGBT population,” Herek was quoted as saying by the Atlantic. “They didn’t want the groups to be able to say ‘here’s how many of us there are.’”

A report released in January by the National Institutes of Health LGBT Research Coordinating Committee revealed exceptionally thin NIH resources committed to investigating the well-documented health disparities among LGBT Americans.

The NIH report found that in fiscal 2010 (the most recent year for which data were available at the time of analysis) only 5 percent of the institutes’ LGBT health projects were focused on alcoholism; 7.7 percent on cancer; 2.7 percent on depression; 1.4 percent on smoking and health; 1.4 percent on suicide; and 6.3 percent on violence. The overwhelming majority of projects — 81.5 percent — dealt with gay men and HIV/AIDS, particularly on ways to reduce HIV transmission.

The slowly expanding scientific literature on LGBT health is evidence of researchers’ expanded interest in the field. But it’s another matter to find funding to support the work, researchers told the Atlantic, a situation they said is slowly improving overall.


Anti-gay laws have psychological effect: study

man, sad, gay news, Washington Blade, anti-gay laws

(Photo by Bigstock)

ANN ARBOR, Mich.  — A new study from the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan finds that states with anti-gay laws on the books have adverse impact on young gay men, particularly in regard to those who wish to be fathers, the  Michigan Daily reports.

Jose Bauermeister conducted the study, which was published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. He analyzed survey results against state-specific LGB policies including bans on same-sex marriage and same-sex joint parenting and second parent adoptions, the article said.

The results confirmed Bauermeister’s hypothesis that men who plan on raising children had higher levels of depression and lower levels of self-esteem in states with LGB-restrictive policies than men with the same aspirations in states without the bans, the Daily reports.


Holidays can exacerbate depression among LGBT people

Greg Jones, gay news, Washington Blade

Dr. Gregory Jones (Photo courtesy of Gregory Jones)

Are LGBT Americans more susceptible to depression?

Numerous studies suggest discrimination, homophobia and even family rejection leave this population particularly vulnerable to this condition and other mental health disorders. And while there are no reliable statistics to indicate specific rates of depression among LGBT Americans, local mental health providers with whom the Washington Blade recently spoke said the holiday season can exacerbate symptoms.

“The holiday season has a lot of associations with family, togetherness and unfortunately many people in the LGBT community have experienced some family loss, whether it was the loss of relationships, being ostracized or not accepted,” Dr. Gregory Jones of District Psychotherapy Associates in D.C. told the Blade. More than 70 percent of his patients are LGBT. “So often times during the holiday season, people feel reminded of this.”

Dr. Marc Dalton, director of Dalton Psychiatric Services in D.C., noted family along with money and general hard times contribute to depression during the holidays. Like Jones, he said relationships with friends, family and significant others “can become more paramount” during this time of the year.

“Stress is more relevant when you have to leave and go back to your family,” Dalton said. “When you have trouble with family accepting you and understanding your lifestyle, the stress of bringing someone back into that environment and how they’re going to treat that person, how they are going to treat you together. It’s already stressful for someone in heterosexual relationships when they bring someone into the family and having to navigate those social waters.”

Dalton added family members with different political and religious beliefs can cause further stress. He and Jones both noted LGBT people are sometimes unable to visit relatives because they have either shunned or rejected them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

“I often times encourage them to kind of turn to family of choice, so they often then feel more susceptible to feelings of rejection from friends if they’re available,” Jones said. “It’s a time of year that is a mile-marker that most everyone can recognize, think back and reflect on their experiences. For those who do not have an ideal support system, the holidays can be tough.”

Depression affects estimated 17 million Americans

The American Psychological Association notes those with depression may exhibit a lack of interest and enjoyment from daily tasks, significant weight loss (or gain,) insomnia and a lack of energy and concentration. Some may experience persistent thoughts of death and even suicide.

The 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. Doctors Arnold Grossman of New York University and Anthony D’Augelli of Pennsylvania State University noted in a 2007 study in the American Association of Suicidology that nearly 50 percent of young transgender people have “seriously” considered suicide, and a quarter of them have attempted to take their own life.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 17 million American adults live with depression during any given year-long period. Medications, psychotherapy and/or a combination of both treatments can prove effective in treating those with depression.

Stigma remains barrier to treatment

The Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 students, six teachers and administrators and the alleged gunman’s mother dead has sparked renewed calls to reform the country’s mental health system. Stigma, however, remains a significant barrier to those with depression and other mental health conditions from seeking treatment.

“People internalize that going into therapy or seeking mental health treatment is a sign of weakness,” Jones said. “I actually consider it a sign of strength. It’s knowing when to reach out and when things are beyond your scope of control and abilities.”

Access to mental health care providers can pose another challenge.

Those of a higher socio-economic status who live in D.C. and other urban areas may have better access to psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health providers. Those who rely upon an insurance company or public assistance for their health care, however, may not have as much access to affordable and competent mental health care professionals.

An additional hurdle those with depression and other conditions face is a lack of mental health providers who are comfortable treating their LGBT patients’ unique needs.

“Even though we’re trained in our particular medical school or if you’re a psychologist if you go through your Ph.D. studies or your clinical studies, some folks are still not good at it, are not ‘gay’ or LGBT-affirming,” Dalton said. “That’s really important for a lot of my friends who I’ve talked to. They really want that security.”


The D.C. Department of Mental Health’s website contains a list of local providers and other information for those who are suffering from depression and other mental health disorders. Whitman-Walker Health offers group therapy sessions and a variety of other services and treatment options to those with mental health-related issues.

The Trevor Project, the Mautner Project and the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists provide additional resources on suicide prevention and LGBT-specific information on other mental and general health-related issues.