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Olympian and actor Gus Kenworthy has revealed that he struggled with both depression and suicidal ideation prior to coming out as gay.
Kenworthy spoke to fellow out athlete Megan Rapinoe, who captained the U.S. women’s soccer team to their 2019 World Cup victory, in an episode of Abercrombie & Fitch’s A&F Conversations.
An Olympic skier who won the silver medal in men’s slopestyle at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Kenworthy said that coming out in 2015 was the “best thing I could have ever done for my mental health.”
“It’s exhausting being in the closet,” he said. “There was so much time and energy put into harboring that secret that I think it really took a toll on my mental health and I struggled with depression and at moments in my life, thoughts of suicide.
“I think for a lot of my career and my coming up in the sport, my mental health was kind of put on the back burner, and I feel like I was really compartmentalizing. I was not out of the closet,” he continued. “When I did take that stand and come out it was the best thing I could have ever done for my mental health. I thought it was gonna be, like, a thing that maybe it was a hindrance for my sport, and it was the exact opposite.”
Kenworthy said that after coming out, he had his “best season to date,” including winning the World Cup Men’s Halfpipe in 2015 and again in 2016, adding that he “felt so liberated, I had a huge weight off my shoulders.”
In addition to skiing, Kenworthy enjoyed a starring role in American Horror Story: 1984, and has appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, The Real O’Neals, and Will & Grace.
“I think that mental health is so important and I’m so glad that it’s something that is getting talked about more and more frequently now because it’s so important for everybody,” he concluded. “It’s especially important for LGBTQ kids who are at a much higher risk of self-harm, just because they do struggle to come to terms with themselves, ourselves, and the rate of suicide is so much higher.”
According to the Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 40% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months, and more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered it.
Almost half of youth reported engaging in self-harm in the twelve months prior to the survey, with that figure rising to 60% for trans an nonbinary youth.
In addition, more than two-thirds of LGBTQ youth overall (and more than three-in-four trans an nonbinary youth) reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the two weeks prior to the survey.
Almost half of youth said they wanted psychological or emotional counseling from a mental health professional, but were unable to receive it, while a third of LGBTQ youth said they had been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to being LGBTQ.
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