HOMOSEXUALS are twice as likely to have attempted suicide at some point in their lives, a new international study has found.
The recent British study published in the international BioMed Central (BMC) journal of Psychiatry shows that homosexuals were more prone to depression, substance abuse and suicidal behaviour than heterosexuals as a result of discrimination and rejection.
The findings supports evidence in South Africa that homosexuals — particularly Indian men — battle with depression and suicidal thoughts because they grapple to come to terms with their orientation.
Janine Shamos, spokesman for the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, said the organisation received numerous calls for help from the Indian community “who don’t know how to cope with their homosexuality”.
She described their silence about their homosexuality as a “Bollywood syndrome” where gay men may be confused by society with on-screen metrosexuals.
“Bollywood is very popular in terms of the image, dress and glamour and the culture around this makes it even more difficult to be gay. A lot of times people call in and say that they know that they are gay but were often brushed off by colleagues who insisted they were heterosexual and often compared them to Bollywood stars," Shamos said.
She added that the Indian community was one of the many in South Africa, still in denial about their homosexuality.
In an analysis of 25 past studies on sexual orientation and mental health, UK researchers found that gay, lesbian and bisexual adults were at least 50% more likely than heterosexuals to have a history of depression or an anxiety disorder.
They are also at risk of alcohol problems or other forms of substance abuse, and were more than twice as likely as heterosexuals to have attempted suicide at some point in their lives.
When Gauteng web designer, Naufal Khan, 27, recently decided to break his silence about his homosexuality he said he prepared himself “for the worst”.
“With repressed emotions....., I felt suicidal. Indian homosexuals, are prone to experience depression. I’ve been through it and overcome the worst and have dealt with the rejection from family and friends,” said Khan.
He said his belief “in a higher power” and positive energy from people carried him out of his depression and suicidal feelings.
Chief research specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council’s Gender and Development Unit, Professor Vasu Reddy agreed with the study’s findings saying that sexual orientation was a “deeply private matter as a result of the social stigma”.
“To come out of the closet is to run the risk of being exposed, and ostracised by a very demeaning society. It’s a moment of vulnerability because you are usually faced with the risk of harassment by friends and family, public insult, rejection and sometimes even physical assault,” said Reddy.
He said the communities within which we live, placed restrictions on homosexuals because the normative values that are promoted relate to the heterosexual model of “ having a girlfriend, courting, marriage and having children”.
“This is the so-called ‘normalcy’ that society expects. Anything that goes against such a value is seen to be subversive. Homosexuality is therefore seen to be ‘anything’ but normal and these attitudes are propagated by our religions.”
However Reddy said the Indian generation of today was better exposed to public discussion about sexuality and identity that previous generations were reluctant to engage.
“I sense a shift in attitude in the way Indian parents and the community are engaging in issues of sexual identity today. That said, it is still in my opinion a community that is relentless in its homophobia, often because of the strong patriarchal values that run deep in this community.”