Black Dog as you may know is the reference to living with a mental health condition primarily depression, although you add more conditions really.
As gay men we are more prone to mental health issues than our str8 counterparts. Something like twice or three times more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide five or six times more likely to take class a drugs. I’d say there is fair bit of self-medicating going on in our community which isn’t revealing the true numbers of gay bi or Trans men who are struggling or living with mental health issues.
So why is it something that isn’t talked about or reported on in gay media?
So how many of us / you are self-medicating? Every Friday or Saturday night on the piss, a bottle of wine every evening, casual sex to boost your self-confidence or esteem all external things geared to make guys feel better about themselves. There is also huge pressure in our community to be the “good gay guy” having loads of sex, our partying, always happy, never talking about anything deeper than x factor or our latest shags.
In some respects having a MH issues such as depression can be more isolating than having HIV yes I said it. We are regularly reminded by organisations such as GMA, THT, and GHT etc. of the stigma that positive guys face and this good that we are as a community challenged on issues such as this. However there is almost a total silence on mental health issues. Even with chem sex and the use of Tina we are expected to show empathy and understanding in my experience with mental health that isn’t present. Ironically in regards to chem sex MH issues and isolation are key drivers to engaging in the almost ultimate self-destruction in using Tina.
I know from experience how shitty it can be to have no invites out to events etc., to be at home contemplating ending my life because I felt so alone or the demons voices/black dogs’ voice. Were in legion with a whole barrage of why in an arsehole and the evidence being the silence and lack of social engagement with friends etc. The endless posts on Facebook of people out having fun on a night. Of course posting or talking about is a huge gay social faux par and you’ll find that people will unfollow you. I know I am not alone with that. Although I have taken steps forward to overcome all of that and not only look at the issues I have/had but deal with them too and this is no easy feat especially if you can go days without social contact while doing this. I mean a like on a Facebook status hardly constitutes engagement does it?
Why should we fell pressure not to talk about how we really feel, maybe some of our friends feel the same and will breathe a sigh of relief as then they can share what’s really going on them too. And it may even take friendships to a deeper level too, after all as gay bi and trans men we are under enough pressure as it is from a variety of sources.
So talk, share, go the GP if need be if it’s something that is really getting to you there is no shame in admitting you need help. For me it was a good thing to do and helped me worry less about what people thought of me or why I wasn’t getting laid etc……