Protect Against Mental Illness and Suicide in Gay Men with Mindfulness

Protect Against Mental Illness and Suicide in Gay Men with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Mindfulness enables you to recognize just how transitory thoughts are. They come and they go, like clouds before the sun. . . Watch your suicidal thoughts as they float by. You don’t need to grab one and hold on to it. More thoughts will come. More thoughts will go.” – Stacey Freedenthal


The word gay connotes happy and fun loving. This descriptor of homosexual men as gay, however is inaccurate. In fact, the risk of a mental health condition, like depression, anxiety disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is almost three times as high for youths and adults who identify as gay, It is troubling that suicide is attempted four times more often by gay youth. In addition, gay youth are almost twice as likely as their heterosexual peers to abuse drugs and alcohol.


Hence, it is important to develop resources that can reduce mental illness and suicidality in gay men. Mindfulness has been found to be associated with psychological well-being in gay men. It makes sense, then to further explore the ability of mindfulness to improve mental health and reduce suicidality in gay men.


In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Other Psycho-Social Resources Protective Against Mental Illness and Suicidality Among Gay Men.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Wang and colleagues recruited gay men and had them complete measures of self-efficacy, internalized homophobia, self-acceptance, purpose in life, hedonism, altruism, religion, spirituality, mindfulness, positive affect, life satisfaction, vitality, positive relations with others, mental illness, suicidality, and victimization. These data were analyzed with sophisticated modelling and regression analyses.


They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, the higher the levels of self-efficacy, purpose in life, positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, and positive relations with others, and the lower the levels of internalized homophobia, emotional reactivity, and rumination. They also found that gay men with higher levels of mindfulness had lower incidences of mental illness, depression, and suicidality, and less medical/ psychological disability.


Hence, dispositional mindfulness appears to be associated with better psychological and mental health including reduced tendency for depression and suicide. These results are encouraging but are correlational, so causation cannot be determined. But other research has shown that mindfulness causes improvements in the mental and physical states of a wide variety of individuals. And there is no reason to believe that this would also not be the case with gay men. Future research should manipulate mindfulness levels with training and assess the impact of the increased mindfulness on the psychological and mental health of the gay men.


So, protect against mental illness and suicide in gay men with mindfulness.


“Mindfulness can be a powerful tool in dealing with various mental health challenges and symptoms. Beyond breathing exercises, mindfulness means being fully aware of the facets of the body and mind. This helps in assessing intrusive thoughts and emotional reactions.” – Faith Onimiya


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Wang, J., Häusermann, M., & Ambresin, A. E. (2018). Mindfulness and Other Psycho-Social Resources Protective Against Mental Illness and Suicidality Among Gay Men. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9, 361. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00361



Background: There is considerable evidence of health disparities among gay men characterized by higher levels of stress and distress. Psycho-social resources have been linked to numerous positive health outcomes and shown to act as buffers in the stress-distress pathway.

Methods: With data from the 3rd Geneva Gay Men’s Health Survey carried out in 2011 using time-space sampling (n = 428), a relatively elaborate profile of 14 psycho-social resources—including mindfulness—is presented. Using their original scores, latent class analysis created an index variable dividing the respondents into meaningful groups. Psycho-social resources—the index variable as well as each resource individually—were then compared to two recent outcomes—i.e., serious mental illness in the past 4 weeks and short-term disability in the past 2 weeks—using a series of logistic regression models, controlling for all other psycho-social resources and socio-demographic confounders. To assess their potential role as buffers, a similar series of logistic regression models were erected using victimization and three outcomes—i.e., major depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempt—in the past 12 months.

Results: According to the latent class analyses, (1) 5.1% of this sample had a low level of psycho-social resources (i.e., one standard deviation (SD) below the group means), (2) 25.2% a medium-low level, (3) 47.4% a medium level (i.e., at the group means), and (4) 22.2% a high level of psycho-social resources (i.e., one SD above the group means). Psycho-social resources appeared to strongly protect against recent mental morbidity and buffer against the impact of victimization on major depression and suicidality in the past 12 months, reducing the adjusted odds ratios below statistical significance. The explained variance and the individual psycho- There may be disparities in several psycho-social resources among gay men, and as strong compensatory and protective factors, they may explain in part the well-established disparities in stress and distress in this population. While multiple psycho-social resources should be promoted in this population, gay men under 25 years should receive particular attention as all three disparities are most pronounced in this age group.


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