Depression – Counselling for the LGBTI community

By Anna-Maree Osborne, Anewu Counselling Services.

Depression is a mood disorder and the cause can be emotional, social, biological or psychological. Everyone experiences depression in an individual way; however, there are some symptoms of depression that seem to be quite common:

  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Changes to sleep patterns (sleeping more or sleeping less)
  • Repetitive thoughts
  • Feeling tired and having no energy
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Feeling irritable, tearful and impatient
  • Feeling helpless and worthless
  • Thinking about suicide and/or self harm

I have recently counselled a gay man who stated he had just “come out” to his parents, but not to his other siblings, and feels himself to be in utter turmoil emotionally. Various studies have found that depression is more common amongst people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans because of factors such as homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, bullying and religious/social isolation.

Religion played a large part in this client’s life and many of the Bibles teachings he said were homophobic, as were many organized religions Preachers. There are many parts of the Bible, according to this client, which support acceptance of people of different backgrounds and beliefs however narrow interpretations have more often been applied.

He was extremely worried about the response of his friends and siblings who had made disparaging remarks previously about gay men. This led to him having low feelings of self worth and eventually depression. Discussion of facts versus beliefs, and the highlighting of the ability of people to accept others who may choose different lifestyles, assisted this client to deal less emotionally with his inner conflict. Building inner resilience, and with the support of his mother particularly, he began to feel more comfortable with his ability to tell the world who he is and deal with the positive and negative consequences.

In general, various interventions have been found to be effective in helping people manage depression including;

  • Self-help initiatives (support groups and physical activity programmes)
  • Mindfulness based cognitive therapy.
  • Anti-depressant medication for moderate to severe depression.

Research also shows that many day to day activities can assist with managing symptoms such as ;

  1. Eating balanced diet containing lots of oily fish, whole grains, fruit and vegetables can boost important ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain.
  2. Looking after yourself by making sure that you shower daily and put on clean clothes.
  3. Leaving the house for some fresh air, even just for a short stroll can improve your mood.
  4. Do not isolate yourself from others, use friends and family for support.
  5. Depression is an illness that can happen to anyone; the way you feel doesn’t make you weak or a failure, and neither does asking for help.
  6. Coping strategies such as alcohol, drugs and tobacco as a way of coping can lower your mood even further.
  7. Talking about your experiences with people who understand, like at a self help group, can help you to realise that you’re not alone.
  8. Complementary therapies such as aromatherapy, acupuncture and homeopathy are ways of relaxing the mind and body to improve wellbeing.

If you are feeling extremely depressed or suicidal your GP can always assist with strategies, and will usually highly recommend Counselling as an effective strategy.