According to one of the world’s top psychiatrists, politicians’ anti-gay policies, words and actions can contribute to LGBTQ people committing suicide.
In an interview with Buzzfeed News, Professor Dinesh Bhugra, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the World Psychiatric Association, said that sexual orientation discrimination “can contribute to suicide, suicidal ideation and self-harm.”
Bhugra said that “a very clear link between policy, social factors and psychiatric problems in LGBT groups” existed due to the social environment being one of the three main causes of self-harm.
“Social causation [of suicide] is well linked with the state of the society and how people feel they fit in — or don’t,” he told Buzzfeed News. “If there is no equity and one group is seen as inferior then it is inevitable that there will be problems in self-image and self-esteem and that may contribute to the feeling of worthlessness.”
Bhugra characterized this low self-esteem as, “If I don’t feel valued by the society, who’s going to miss me? I might as well die.”
It’s not only the speech of politicians that causes suffering. Bhugra said the support of policies that deny LGBT people equal treatment can also cause harm.
“There is very clear evidence that common mental health disorders like anxiety and depression are higher in LGBT groups,” he said, “and there was a study in the States where they showed that if you go for equality and change [anti-LGBTQ laws] the rates of common disorders start to drop among the LGBT population.”
“If you are not homophobic then you should be fighting for equality for everyone,” Bhugra added. “You can’t say, ‘I’m not homophobic’ but somehow they should be treated differently.”
Bhugra’s words come on the heels of GLAAD’s annual Accelerating Acceptance report, which found that after a year of Trump, LGBTQ people are now less accepted by non-LGBTQ adults and more discriminated against.
Less than half of non-LGBTQ adults reported being “very” or “somewhat” comfortable with LGBTQ people, down from 53% in 2017.
“An unseen casualty of a tumultuous year has been the LGBTQ community,” John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll, which conducted the survey for GLAAD, said in a statement. “In a single year, we’ve seen significant declines from what had been an increasingly accepting America to one now less supportive. And this lost ground of acceptance cuts across many in American society.”
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