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Let’s Talk!

By Rob Peach

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The annual Bell ‘Let’s Talk’ Day is on January 27th.  The ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign recognizes that ‘talking is the best way to break down the barriers associated with mental illness’ and that it ‘is the first step to creating meaningful change and building awareness, acceptance and action’.  For more info: http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/end-the-stigma/

So, how do put this into practice?  It can be hard to talk about mental health issues… especially if some of the symptoms you experience might be related to your sexuality.

Bell suggests:

‘Language Matters:  Words can help… and they can also hurt.  Pay attention to the words you use’. 

My take:  Explain to friends or coworkers that using words like ‘perv’, ‘tranny’ or ‘fag’ without thinking that their comments can be hurtful and can prevent others from talking about their experiences for fear of being judged.

‘Educate Yourself:  Learn the facts about mental illness.  Be knowledgeable and help fight stigma with facts’.

My take:  Understanding why and how we develop and experience sexual attractions and urges helps us to find help when we need it, and gives us an opportunity to support others with seeking help as well.

‘Be Kind:  Small acts of kindness speak volumes’.

My take:  Don’t be silent or allow others to suffer alone.  You don’t need to understand someone’s experience to have empathy for their suffering.  Reaching out and offering support helps others feel less alone.

‘Listen and Ask:  Sometimes it’s best just to listen.’

My take:  Don’t minimize someone’s experience, or lay blame.   The act of listening is compassionate and helps others with their suffering.  Try not to make judgments about others by focusing on their emotional struggle and not on the behaviour itself (which may be difficult to understand).

‘Talk About It:  Start a dialogue, not a debate’. 

My take:  Tell your story, or ask others about if, or how, their sexuality has impacted their mental health.  Diverse sexual attractions or desires can cause confusion, shame and guilt and contribute to depression and anxiety.  Talking about what causes you difficulty helps both you and others to feel less alone and can help cope with painful emotions.

There is help available if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues related to, or impacted by, their sexuality.

The Board of Examiners in Sex Therapy and Counseling in Ontario (BESTCO) is organization of education and committed psychotherapists, physicians and educators who offer treatment to individuals and couples who are struggling with issues related to their sexuality.

BESTCO aims to:

  1. To identify to the public, clinicians who have expertise in sex therapy.
  2. To set standards for the granting of registered status in sex therapy.
  3. To examine candidates for the status of registered sex therapist.
  4. To provide a continuing education component for BESTCO members.

You can find more info, or a Registered / Associate Sex Therapist in Ontario at www.bestco.info.  Or, if you are in the Greater Toronto Area, contact me directly at treatment@sextherapytoronto.org.

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