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Mental Health and Depression

Despair and Loneliness after Coming Out

Dr. Olson,

I grew up in the 1950’s – 60’s. FINALLY OUT resonated with me because I grew up in the insularity of a rural environment. I was ignorant of homosexuality also. I am now in my sixties and I feel lonely and in despair.  After 30 years of marriage, I came out to my wife. I have struggled to find a good therapist who can understand what I’ve been going through. 

Most of the gay literature focuses on the coming out process for young gay men and women.  Are there any that describe the trials of coming out as an older man?

I am concerned about your “lonely despair.”  Even at your age, it is possible to successfully get through this process of coming out.  In my research, the oldest man I came across was in his nineties when he came out, and he was living with his gay lover when I met him.  The most important thing for you to do today, however, isn’t to be seeking a lover, but finding friends, gay or straight, who accept you as you now have revealed yourself to your wife, but also, more importantly, to yourself. Continue reading

Delving Deeper into Suicide among Mature Gay and Bisexual Men

My essay “Mature Gay and Bisexual Men and Suicide” in Psychology Today drew these questions from a reader: What drew you to psychiatry? Why the interest in suicide in mature gay and bisexual men? What accounts for their high rates of suicide and mental health issues, and are the rates different among younger gay and bisexual men? How does race factor into this? What can be done to combat high rates of suicide among mature sexual minority men?

I have always thought of psychiatry as a calling rather than a choice. To be successful, one must be able to accurately empathize with patients’ emotional pain. Our training allows us to step back from that pain and then apply some objective, rational thought as to the most appropriate intervention. Healing occurs through genuine warmth, accurate empathy, and unconditional positive regard for each patient. Continue reading

Depression in Mature Gay Men

After I wrote “Why Older Gay Men Are Attempting Suicide at a Higher Rate,” I received a couple of poignant responses. One was from a sixty-six-year-old man who was struggling with the question of whether to come out to his parents and friends, the loss of his business, and several health challenges, including serious side effects from his medications. He said that he had “not ruled out” suicide but that he didn’t want to hurt his family or close friends. Another was from a sixty-one-year-old gay man from Australia who wrote about feeling invisible—even among close gay friends who were younger—and suggested that depression in mature gay men could be linked to rejection and ageism in the gay community. He is struggling with physical changes, including erectile dysfunction. Here is how I responded to them.

Neither of you is unique in what you have experienced. When I turned sixty years old, I also went through a difficult time for some of the same reasons you’ve mentioned. I had lost my mother, my stepfather, and a brother within six months, and some friends had died. I needed a knee and a shoulder replacement. My career had plateaued, and I thought it was on the decline. I had some difficulty with erectile dysfunction. All I could see for the future was a series of continued losses. Continue reading

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