Research from the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Unicamp, (Campinas, Brazil) reveals that cultural factors may lead adolescents with a homosexual orientation to develop a more fragile mental health, with a higher risk of depression and suicide than heterosexual teens.
The study, “Homosexuality in adolescence: mental health, quality of life, religiosity and psychosocial identity”, the doctoral thesis in psychology by Daniela Barbetta Ghorayeb, draws attention to the great vulnerability of gay adolescents to mental disorders.
According to the study, 35% of subjects who identified themselves as homosexual presented with a depressive disorder at some point in life. Among the control group (heterosexuals), only 15% had a depressive disorder. In relation to the risk of suicide, 10% of homosexual adolescents at some point considered killing themselves.
According to the results, prejudice, especially in the family, is one of the main risk factors for adolescent mental health. The study showed that when deciding whether to “come out” to the family, gay teens may experience feelings of worthlessness. Daniel noted that 35% of the gay teens internalized shame of their sexual orientation, following the assumption that others were feeling those same feelings about them.
The psychologist believes that the acceptance of the gay adolescent by his or her family acts as a protective factor against prejudice, and that it is important that the family accept the difference without judgment. The teenager who has family support may suffer less outside of home, and feel less devaluarized.
In an earlier study with adult homosexual orientation, the researcher reaffirmed that the impact of prejudice on mental health is different between gay men and women, being higher in males. According to the researcher, physical proximity of women in Brazilian culture is seen as something more natural, but among men, whether homosexual or heterosexual, affection is viewed with prejudice. “When you think of two women together it does not seem so outrageous. There is a higher cultural tolerance than for relations between men”, she explains.
For the researcher, homosexuality, which until 1986 in Brazil was classified as a mental disorder, is still a taboo in our country, even in the scientific community. Daniela estimates that it may take a few decades before the paradigm shifts in Brazil, and states that even Brazilian psychiatry is still in the early stages of linking gay mental health to cultural factors. She notes that in countries like England and Scotland, where there are already many relevant scientific studies, this area of scientific exploration is less stigmatized.
Daniela hope that the results obtained through her studies help reduce ignorance regarding homosexuality, and give people a chance to reexamine their current thinking. This is important not only for psychologists or psychiatrists, but for all health professionals who, through a better understanding of this population, can better care for their gay patients.
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Source: Journal of Unicamp, with modifications by the ProcuraMed editor.</p>
Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)