Are You Faking it?

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On a Friday night a few weeks ago, Sara was frantically typing on her laptop, shaking, with droplets of sweat dripping from her forehead. Every so often, she peered over her shoulder, just in case someone was still awake and could come into her room. “I did it again,” she typed to the members of a private Facebook group. “I lost control of myself.”

Sara, 25, lives in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Sara was talking about self-harm and suicide attempts. She said she tried to commit suicide several times after being pressured by her parents to get married and have a child. Very often it also happens that parents take their children to a psychiatrist for being different. No scientifically valid evidence exists that shows that people can change their sexual orientation, although some people do repress it. The most reputable medical and psychotherapeutic groups say you should not try to change your sexual orientation, as the process can actually be damaging. In a research it is found that 73.5% of the lesbian identified population in Bangladesh wish for death while talking about suicide and self-injurious behavior.

Unfortunately, when the sexual orientation and/or the gender identity of a family member differs from the rest of the family and/or their perceived ‘social norms’, the overall family experiences a conflict between the loyalty to the family member and the compliance of the norm. Most parents assume that their children will grow up to be heterosexual (straight). They won’t have thought that one day they would hear the words, “Mum. Dad. I’ve got something to tell you. I’m gay!” It is very important to remember that they only share something like this with people who matter.

The trouble gets even difficult when it comes to a point of Hijra population. In the same research it is found that the clinical level of mental health problem among Hijra identified population in Bangladesh is 80.2% where as among general population it is 36%. The perceived stress level among these people is also very high (78%) when compared to others. Please note that so far there has not been any research on the Trans men community or people who are gender non-confirming as it’s believed that they are non-existent in our society.

In an individual interview, while asked about coping mechanism, a lesbian identified person responded: “What I do is to take a couple of Sedil (sleeping pill) forget thinking about her, all other thoughts and dive into sleep”

Families, friends and colleagues with social values often lack the necessary tools to discuss sexual diversity. The silence surrounding the issue contributes to creating a climate of exclusion and, in any case, does nothing to alleviate stigma and discrimination endured outside of the family setting.

Families, friends and colleagues must be able to access correct and unbiased information, psychological support and adequate resources to help them deal with the situation in the respect of all their members. In an individual interview, a gay identified person retorted: “It cannot be shared with family. Sometimes I feel so depressed thinking that no one understands me except my sister. They see these as if I am dramatizing, trying to convince them with these – otherwise there would be no reason for low mood all day long”

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Here are a few suggestions for how you can help in supporting them:

Be aware

Confront homophobia, biphobia and transphobia when you hear it, even if there are no LGBT people present at the time. Let people know that offensive comments are unacceptable and hurtful.

Be open-minded and respect and accept what a person tells you

If a person tells you they are feeling a certain way, accept it – that is how they are feeling and that those feelings are valid. It can be hurtful when people doubt or question LGBTQ people about their feelings and identities.

Be sensitive when asking questions

Just because someone has come out to you doesn’t mean that they will want to or will be able to answer all of the questions you may have. Reading about LGBTQ people, their histories and cultures and attending LGBT events are effective ways to learn more about LGBTQ people and great ways to show your support.

Confront your own views and opinions

Addressing and reflecting on stereotypes, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and prejudice, though sometimes may be uncomfortable,  can help you to understand common issues affecting LGBTQ people and perhaps highlight things you can do differently to become a great ally and friend.

We all need information and support from a friend in the know. Sometimes we can have all the will in the world to get up and try new things and meet different people, but it’s often our confidence that holds us back. Experiences of isolation and loneliness can be due to a number of reasons. Feeling like you don’t have any social networks can be challenging barriers to being the person you want to be.

Last year, the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) statement said that diversity in sexual orientation had now been studied extensively for over 50 years and LGBT people are known to experience higher rates of psychiatric disorders than the wider community but that their mental health improves in environments where they have equal rights. “There is no sound scientific evidence that innate sexual orientation can be changed,” the position statement states. “Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality can create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish, and they can be potentially harmful … The provision of any intervention purporting to “treat” something that is not a disorder is wholly unethical.”

And there are a number of resources and support groups that you can access. If you need a supportive ear to listen to you and discuss about, you can find a helpline here by country: http://www.befrienders.org/

But above all these, inter- and intra-community dialogue and team building activity can be considered to enhance communication and supportive relationship in the LGBTQ community. In addition, awareness about resource within self and community are essential for ensuring growth.

Mental health in the workplace is the theme of World Mental Health Day 2017. World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues and mobilizing efforts in support of better mental health.

Research Source: ‘Exploration of Mental Health Needs and Support Systems among LGBT Population in Bangladesh’ by Share Net International

Oboyob

Oboyob works as a training associate in a suicide prevention and emotional support helpline in Bangladesh

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