Yet another study confirms conversion therapy is destructive, with links to internalised homophobia and depression

Patrick Kelleher September 26, 2020
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Conversion therapy

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Yet another study on so-called conversion therapy has linked the condemned practice to mental ill-health.

Researchers discovered that queer men who had been through the debunked “therapy” were more likely to experience depressive symptoms and internalised homophobia.

Overall, those who had past experience of conversion therapy were twice as likely to have psychosocial conditions later in life.

For the study, which was published in The Gerontologist, researchers analysed data from 1,156 queer men collected through the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study between 2016 and 2019.

All of the men were aged over 40, with a mean age of 62.6 years. Of that number, 171 (14.8 per cent) reported having past experience of traumatising conversion therapy.

Concluding the study, the authors wrote: “Our analyses supported our hypothesis that MSM (men who have sex with men) who underwent conversion therapy would have higher odds of having negative psychosocial conditions compared with MSM who had not.

“These findings support classifying conversion therapy as a sexual minority stressor that contributes to psychosocial health inequality – specifically for depressive symptoms and internalised homophobia – within community samples of MSM.”

The authors added: “Though our study provides important insights into the potential dangers of conversion therapies, these findings may offer only a glimpse into the magnitude of harm imposed by these practices.”

Most conversion therapy survivors experienced horrific ‘psychotherapy’ in an effort to change their sexualities.

A majority of the survivors of the pseudoscientific practice surveyed experienced psychotherapy in an effort to change their sexualities. In total, 115 (67.3 per cent) experienced this form of “therapy”.

Meanwhile, 67 people (39.2 per cent) reported having experienced group based therapy, while 52 (30.4 per cent) had faced prayer/religion based conversion therapy.

Elsewhere, 16 respondents (9.4 per cent) said they had experienced “gender role reinforcement” while seven (4.1 per cent) experienced aversion therapy.

Additionally, 11 people (6.4 per cent) said they had experienced “pharmacological treatment”.

The mean age at which people began conversion therapy was 23.8, while 36.9 per cent of respondents said they continued with the process for more than six months.

Almost 30 per cent of participants in the research said that the harmful practice was “either a little or not at all their decision”.

The study found that those who had been through the process had lower levels of resilience than those who had not.

It also found that survivors of the harmful practice were more likely to experience depression and other mental health issues throughout their lives.

Conversion therapy has been condemned by most major psychiatric bodies and has been banned in a number of countries.

A recent United Nations report found that the practice should be considered a form of torture and recommended that it be outlawed globally.

Meanwhile, a UK survey conducted in 2019 found that one in five conversion therapy survivors later attempted suicide, while two in five said they had experienced suicidal thoughts.

Less than a third said they had gone on to lead “a happy and fulfilled life”.


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