I’ve been openly gay for decades but have failed to create a fulfilling personal life for myself. As I age, the opportunities to continue trying have faded away. A life of interacting with shallow acquaintances, attending inane social gatherings, having casual/anonymous sex, and tending my garden quietly doesn’t appeal to me. Why should I continue to exist if I can see no purpose and take no pleasure in it? I’ve thought about joining a religious community. I’ve failed to realize my potential as a gay man and cannot face the hard work of learning how to live without kindness, affection, trust, and intimacy. Is suicide a reasonable choice for me?
One of the most critical issues for each of us, as we approach our later years, is for us to have a sense of meaning, a feeling that our lives have mattered. Many older people think they have failed in one of life’s critical dimensions if they have not found a life partner or do not have a family. For others, though, a sense of meaning can be obtained through belonging to a community that they can commit their time and money to and feel that they are adding value to. Continue reading
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
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