A guest writer Marcus Clarke looks at the mental health issues faced by bi people
According to the Bisexuality report released in 2012, bi people are more prone to suffer from mental health issues in comparison to homosexuals. They have been viewed and categorized as promiscuous, carriers of diseases, less trustworthy and a threat to relationships. This attitude continues to contribute towards bisexuals experiencing “high rates of being ignored, discriminated against, demonized, or rendered invisible by both the heterosexual world and the lesbian and gay communities” (San Francisco Human Rights Commission Report “Bisexual Invisibility: Impacts and Recommendations”).
Studies published in the Journal of Bisexuality further support this statement by linking distrust, shame and lack of support directed towards bisexuals not only from wider society but also from the LGBT community. It is as though society is making a conscious effort to discriminate and cause bisexuals to feel ashamed because of their romantic/sexual interests. All these factors underscore the rise in mental health issues amongst bisexual people.
The 5 most common mental health issues that have been found prominent amongst the bisexual community are:
Denial: An Australian study from 2013 states that mental health issues experienced by bisexual people tend to be significantly higher compared to homosexual and heterosexual people. Social pressure and discrimination cause many bisexuals to repress their identity, leading to repression of feelings and denial. This denial of identity can lead to a loss of emotional connection towards loved ones and a sense of bewilderment and dissatisfaction with one’s life. The fear of social exclusion, isolation and discrimination based on identity and expression also contribute to the denial of bisexuality among individuals worldwide.
Low Self-esteem: Rejection from family, religious pressures and social discrimination are major causes of low self-esteem and self-worth that affect all individuals equally. Lack of social acceptance and stigma can cause bisexuals to have poor self-worth with potential consequences of self-harm and substance abuse. A 2015 study on sexual identity among high school students in the United States conducted a national risk behavior survey to better understand the disparities between sexual minority (gay, lesbian and bisexual) students and heterosexual students. The study concluded that the impact of social exclusion, discrimination and resulting low self-esteem lead to a significantly higher risk of tobacco, alcohol and drug misuse in sexual minority students than their heterosexual counterparts.
Depression: Research upholds the reality that sexual minority youth are at a higher risk for mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. Bisexual individuals were shown to experience more stress in the development of sexual identity, leading to a higher prevalence of depression and associated symptoms including fatigue, eating disorders, insomnia and anxiety.
The fear of social exclusion, isolation and discrimination based on identity and expression also contribute to the denial of bisexuality among individuals worldwide.
Suicide: This study found that reported suicide attempts in students who identify as bisexual is as much as seven times higher than those reported by heterosexual students. Another broad study in New Zealand found that those identifying themselves as LGB were six times more likely than heterosexuals to report at least one suicide attempt by the age of 21. It is therefore, important that efforts be made to not just educate kids against bullying but also adults who indulge in a different level of bullying towards people who have different sexualities.
Anxiety: Research states that Bisexuals are more prone to anxiety than homosexuals. Biphobia causes them to be viewed as less trustworthy and unable to commit to relationships. According to a survey conducted at the annual UK bisexual conference in 2008, a quarter of people had received a diagnosis of mental health issues from a professional, reporting diagnoses of depression (16%), anxiety (8%) and self-harm (8%). Fear of shame and bullying causes many to stay closeted, thus leading to high anxiety levels. All humans benefit from socializing and bisexuals are no different.
What can be done?
It is important to build a safe environment for people who identify as bisexual. Environments at home and at school must be established as safe spaces for LGBT youth to ensure that bullying, rejection and social exclusion are not allowed. Communities, parents and schools need to stand together to protect gender identities and sexual orientation preferences. This guideline details the steps that schools can take to ensure the creation of safe spaces at educational institutes.
Remind yourself that hurtful comments and insults are often the result of a lack of knowledge, heightened by influence from stereotypes and phobia. No one deserves to be subjected to stigma and discrimination based on sexual identity and preference. Talking to a trusted friend, family member or guidance counselor about your sexuality will help you find the support you need and deserve. If you are being abused verbally or physically, or discriminated against based on your preference of being bisexual, report it to the appropriate authorities if you feel able to safely do so.
Join a bisexual community, engage in activities that you enjoy, take care of your health and embrace the freedom to be who you are – you are worth it. If you are feeling lonely and isolated, find a support group in your area or join an online support group. Check online to find out about groups in your community. Speak to someone in your support system if you are feeling depressed or anxious and if you are feeling suicidal, seek help.
Biphobia causes them to be viewed as less trustworthy and unable to commit to relationships.
Fortunately, there has been an increase in research and studies on Bisexuals and their mental health, and efforts are being made to improve their quality of life. According to Alice Ashworth, a policy officer for Stonewall (a British lesbian, gay and bisexual rights charity) “Bi people will be pleased to know that researchers really do understand their needs. Now it’s important for service providers, the media and employers to take those needs seriously – we hope this important work helps them do to do that.”
Marcus regularly blogs at psysci, a psychology, science blog that examines the latest research and explains how findings can impact and improve people’s lives.
Photo Credit; Katy Blackwood, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49752460