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GBMates Tackling Loneliness

GBmates.com is an amazing online resource for gay, bisexual and other same-sex attracted men dealing with loneliness, developed as part of a research project involving Southern Cross University, La Trobe University, Swinburne University and University of Surrey.

The website includes information about loneliness for gay, bi and other same-sex attracted men, as well as contact details of the many support networks available. GBMates.com also provides information for service providers and researchers. The website will be updated regularly with new information and blogs, and feedback on what future resources people would like is also welcomed.

GBmates.com partner organisations – the National LGBTI Health Alliance, ACON, QuAC, Relationships Australia Queensland, SANE Australia, Wesley Mission Queensland, Mind Australia, and ECH Inc – provide access to a range of support services, many targeted specifically for gay, bi and other same-sex attracted men, as well as for different age groups. These include support groups that meet face to face, online support services, and counselling services available in different modes.

To find out more or to make contact, visit GBMates website or follow them on Twitter: @GBMates

What is loneliness?
Loneliness is the emotional response to wanting more social and emotional connections with other people than you have currently. While loneliness is more common among people who live alone and those who are not in a relationship, it is not always linked to social isolation. Some people can feel lonely even when sleeping next to their partner or when in a crowd. And conversely some people may not be lonely even though they live alone and prefer their own company.

Is loneliness linked to mental illness?
Loneliness is more common among people with mental health needs, although not all people who experience mental illness are lonely and not all lonely people have mental health problems. There is also some evidence that loneliness can actually lead to or exacerbate psychological distress. For people with long term or complex mental health needs, loneliness can also be linked to the discrimination and isolation arising from the stigma of mental illness, as well as other social factors such as homelessness, poverty and unemployment.

Does loneliness change over time?
Loneliness is more common among younger people (i.e., those aged 15 to 25) and those in the older age groups (i.e., 80+) than among people in other age groups. For some people there may be particular life events that lead to loneliness (e.g., breaking up with a partner, loss of a job, loss of a partner, close friend or family member), and from which they recover. For others loneliness may be a common experience across their life and something with which they feel they have always struggled. That said, it’s safe to say that most if not all people have felt lonely from time to time, and thus many can feel empathy for those who experience it consistently.

Is loneliness more common in gay and bisexual men?
The short answer is: probably yes. While we need more research to be done, the evidence currently suggests that same-sex attracted men are twice more likely to experience significant loneliness than heterosexual men, and are also more likely to experience loneliness than lesbians and bisexual women, as well as heterosexual women. And this appears to hold true across the lifespan.

It’s difficult to pin point why this is the case. Growing up in a discriminatory society is likely to play a part, as is the greater incidence of mental health needs among gay and bisexual men. As same-sex attracted men grow older they are also more likely to live alone and not be in a relationship – and as noted before, both of these are linked to loneliness. For young people, there are a range of challenges related to coming out, including, for some, dislocation from biological family, homelessness and challenges negotiating the ‘gay scene’. Our research project will investigate these issues as they are experienced across the lifespan. We’re also interested in researching how gay men relate to idealised notions of masculinity – such as independence and self-reliance – to see if these are connected to loneliness.

How to overcome loneliness?
The common response to loneliness – both on the part of those experiencing it and those wanting to help – is to seek out more social connections with people. But going to a party and being forced to make small talk (or getting drunk until you feel comfortable) is probably not that useful. So it’s more about making meaningful, emotionally fulfilling connections. That’s difficult to engineer, unless you choose to access a support group that is designed to help with that. And there are some around targeting same-sex attracted men.

A good starting point is to focus on your own health and emotional needs. And seeing if these can be met in a social environment. For example, joining a political or activist group, getting involved in a meditation or yoga group, or signing up for a sports or exercise group. There are lots of these around the place – and in some areas there may be ones specifically for men or LGBTIQ people. For some people, loneliness might relate to deeper psychological or interpersonal issues that mean that professional counselling might be a good option. There are also peer support networks, particularly relating to mental health that could also be useful. Check here for some links to organisations.
(Source: gbmates.com)

For other Gold Coast events and activities visit the Gold Coast Primary Health Network’s website: HealthyGC.com.au

PIR is a Federally funded program. Other consortia members include Gold Coast Health and Mental Health Association QLD