By Neelima Prabhala
Until fairly recently, mental health and mental problems were not viewed as legitimate health concerns, but rather were seen as a lack of will on the part of the sufferer to get over something. Science has taught us better: we know that illnesses such as depression and anxiety are often caused by chemical imbalances and can be treated. Although brain chemistry likely plays a role in mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, it is essential to recognize the social factors that affect mental health. Your sexual orientation is a part of who you are and affects your needs.
These issues are real and affect the bisexual community severely. Bisexuals face the challenges of our society’s insistence on a binary system: gay or straight. Many people simply do not believe in bisexuality. Being told you do not exist does not help anyone’s mental state, and is especially difficult for people who are questioning or having difficulties with their sexuality.
Lack of support is a major cause of depression and other mental health problems. In this binary world, bisexuals are often rejected from both straight and gay communities. Some straight people cannot accept or deal with the ‘gay’ side or will pretend you are straight and perhaps experimenting or confused or, heaven forbid, ‘going through a phase.’ Some gays and lesbians suspect that your same-sex attractions are not genuine, or that you are in denial about your “true” gay or lesbian identity. This lack of acceptance makes it very difficult to get necessary support. We all need support for problems and obstacles not related to our sexuality, but when our sexual identities are denied by others it is difficult to trust them with other parts of our identities. Bi support groups can provide a group of people who will accept you whether you are a two or a five on the Kinsey Scale. A bi support group – as opposed to a general support group or just an TBGL support group – can help support you during hard times and understand your specific experiences as a bisexual person.
Finding a bi support group is not as easy as it may sound:. In big cities there are more likely to be resources. But smaller communities may only have a queer support group – if even that. But there are resources out there for bisexuals, whether they be online communities or meetings that you have to travel to attend. And it is worth it for your mental health to find a place where you can know, not hope, that you’ll be accepted as a bisexual. Biphobia may also pose challenges for people seeking support from a therapist. Many therapists, even ones specializing in queer patients and issues, do not understand bisexuality or issues regarding the community, and it would be difficult to come out to your therapist and be met with rejection or misunderstanding. But studies have shown that closeted-ness with one’s therapist is extremely detrimental to one’s mental health.
Finding support is imperative to your health, whether it comes from friends, family members, a group, and/or a therapist. Support tailored to your sexuality could be a positive part of your life. It is not always easy to find that bi-safe space, but it is well worth the trouble.
NOTE: One place to look for resources about bisexual mental health is: http://www.bisexual.org/resources.html#bicounseling
Neelima is from Boston and is a freshman at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. Her hobbies include photography, martial arts and sports.