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One fifth of gay cure therapy survivors have attempted suicide, survey finds

Nick Duffy February 20, 2019
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Gay cure therapy: Stock photo

(Stock photo)

One fifth of gay cure therapy survivors say they have attempted suicide, according to a shocking new survey.

The findings come in a report from the Ozanne Foundation, a UK-based charity promoting equality and religious diversity that is backed by two Church of England Bishops.

A survey of LGBT+ people of faith attracted 4600 responses, with one in ten participants saying they had personal experience of attempts to change their sexual orientation.

Gay cure therapy linked to suicide, mental health problems

Of the 458 participants who had experienced conversion therapy, 91 people people said they had attempted suicide.

Two in five of those who had experience with conversion therapy had had suicidal thoughts, while less than a third said they had gone on to “have gone on to lead a happy and fulfilled life.”

Just 13 survivors said that conversion therapy worked, while three-quarters said “it did not work for me and I do not believe it works for others.”

43 respondents said they were subjected to conversion therapy against their will, with religious leaders more likely than parents to have “advised or forced attempts at sexual orientation change.”

According to the foundation, 22 people said they had undergone “forced sexual activity with someone of the opposite gender” as part of conversion therapy efforts.

Bishop of Liverpool: Gay cure therapy leaves people ‘scarred for life’

Church leaders have been taken aback by the findings, which come one week after a major London evangelical church hosted a gay cure event.

The Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes, Chair of the Ozanne Foundation, said: “The level of considered and attempted suicide reported here is shocking and sobering.

“The statistics reflect lives which have been scarred and strained by mixed messaging of love, acceptance, condemnation and fear.

“My hope is that the courageous sharing of our respondents will not go unheard, and that human flourishing and human life will not be treated as a mere intellectual battleground for dry conversation.”

The Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes with Jayne Ozanne
The Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes with Jayne Ozanne

The charity says that the National Faith and Sexuality Survey survey, the first of its kind in the UK, was designed to understand “the impact of religious belief on people’s understanding and acceptance of their sexual orientation.”

Ozanne Foundation founder Jayne Ozanne added: “For many, much of this report will confirm what they already know regarding the dangers of ‘conversion therapy’.

“However, it is the scale and severity of the problems experienced and the age at which children are said to be exposed to these practices that are of the gravest concern.

“The high level of reports of attempted suicide and suicidal thoughts amongst those who have attempted to change their sexual orientation is not something that can be easily dismissed.

“These are serious safeguarding issues which require urgent action.”

The UK government committed in its 2018 LGBT+ action plan to outlawing gay ‘cure’ therapy, but no proposals have been put forward on the issue.

Martin Pollecoff, Chair of the UK Council of Psychotherapists, said: “It is desperately sad that so few said they had sought help from the medical profession, but instead turned to discredited methods that we know cause significant harm to try and change their sexual orientation.

“Our aim is to help people come to terms with their sexuality so that they can embrace and celebrate who they are, rather than living in shame and fear.”

If you are in the US and are having suicidal thoughts, suffering from anxiety or depression, or just want to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255. If you are in the UK, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123. 

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