Show your support when they come out of the closet
Researchers in Melbourne are conducting a study that is believed will find a correlation between gay Australian women eighteen years and over, excessive alcohol, recreational drugs and high levels of depression and anxiety.
Women who identify in this group are two to three times more likely to experience depression and anxiety than their heterosexual counterparts; but researchers say so much of this could be avoided if they received adequate support from family and friends when they came out.
It’s a good reminder at the end of what has been a busy but ultimately frustrating year for the Australian GLBTQI (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex) community who have faced a stifling juncture in their fight for the right to get married. And it’s an issue we have covered extensively this year on The Punch.
The message of today’s piece however is just as important: if and when a member of your family or friends finds the courage to come out, be gentle, be supportive and listen. How you react and what you say will have an irreparable impact on the rest of their life; from how they interact with you to how they feel about and treat themselves.
Associate Professor Ruth McNeil, a member of the University of Melbourne research team, told The Punch today that the coming out period is one of the highest risk times in a GLBTQI person’s life.
“Research has shown that the time between accepting your sexuality and coming out is between five and seven years. For lots of people this can be between the ages of 13 and 17. This is a very vulnerable time. As well as very high risk in terms of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as mental health issues like experiencing depression and anxiety.
“The better a person’s relationship with their family and friends at this time the greater chance they have of any residual impact on their mental health,” she said.
With Christmas just around the corner and lots of family occasions on the cards it’s not hard to imagine a conversation like this cropping up in a private moment. So no matter what you’re feeling, just remember how important this moment is to the person sharing it with you, so listen, pay attention and show them love and support.
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