Digital Pride played host to a fascinating and thoughtful conversation on mental health today (30 April).
Pink Therapy CEO Dominic Davies, Jane Czyzselska, the editor of DIVA and a trained therapist – and Pink Therapy’s Kris Black spoke, alongside Gay Star News’ Dan Beeson and Jonny Benjamin, the man who was talked out of jumping off a bridge – his story became the subject of a TV documentary.
Davies spoke at how the self-medication was widespread in the LGBTI community, seen in the usage of alcoholism and chem sex to cope with depression and anxiety.
Beeson said he was ignorant of mental health issues until he was diagnosed with a panic disorder.
‘I thought I was alone. Talking about it, writing about it on Gay Star News, people came up to me to say they were going through the same thing. It almost made me feel like it was worthwhile. In my darkest place, I hoped it wouldn’t be worthless.’
Czyzselska said it was important to feel you have a voice.
‘There’s a stigma within our community around people feeling low. People think it’s because I’m gay, bi, trans, lesbian, intersex, queer, that I have a problem. But it is hundreds of years of criminalisation, abuse, shame, torture that has been ingrained. For me, the key message is to not have shame about what we feel. What we feel is real. It’s a product of the lives we’ve had.
Black said, for some, it’s not always integral people come out especially if you’re in a black or Asian community.
‘It’s about encouraging people to do what’s right for them,’ she said. ‘There should be no shame or judgment about that.’
She added: ‘It’s not always safe to come out, but there needs to be safe spaces.’
Benjamin opened up about his own personal story.
‘I had a breakdown over my fear of coming out, and I was put into a psychiatric hospital,’ he said. A month in, and I wanted to run away and end my life. I realised I would rather kill myself than admit that I was gay. It’s so sad.’
He added: ‘When I went to a bridge, this guy spoke to me. He talked me off the edge. He said it would get better. Those simple words made so much difference. That was the day my recovery started.’
Watch the video of the Mental Health: Breaking The Stigma panel below: