A new initiative aimed at generating awareness of the impact of depression on gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people has been launched by a coalition of health groups to coincide with National Coming Out Day on October 11. Backed by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists, and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, the initiative, called "Talk About It: Coming Out About Depression," aims to educate the gay community about depression and break some of the stigmas still associated with the condition. To help highlight the fact that depression is a common problem among gay men and lesbians, openly gay actor Chad Allen and former Olympic diver Greg Louganis will speak about their personal battles with depression at public forums in New York City and San Francisco.
Organizers of the initiative report that gay men and lesbians have higher rates of depression and anxiety disorders than their heterosexual peers. Gay and bisexual men are three times more likely to experience depression in their lifetimes than the rest of the population. Several unique factors may contribute to depression among gay people, the campaign's organizers say, including the coming-out process, social stigma associated with homosexuality, homophobia, HIV-related illnesses or fears, experience with antigay harassment, a sense of alienation from both the straight and gay communities, and a fatalistic perception of long-term relationship potential.
"Today I have confidence, experience, and guidance as I learn to walk through depression and anxiety when it appears in my life," said Allen in a press release. "Depression cripples so many of us, but no one talks about it. By sharing my experiences, I hope I can inspire other people to get help. Sometimes we hurt, but even when we do, we never have to hurt alone."
In addition to the talks by Allen and Louganis, the program also will provide educational materials about available treatment options and encourage community-based intervention by increasing awareness and sparking dialogue among gay men and lesbians.