African American men and women who are gay suffer levels of stress that are exceeded only by members of that group who also have AIDS, and their emotional needs are not being met by mental health professionals, according to UCLA researchers.
And lesbian African Americans suffer from stress more than their gay counterparts, often contemplating suicide, said UCLA psychologist Vickie Mays, co-author of a report appearing this week in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Study co-author Susan D. Cochran, a psychologist at Cal State Northridge and at the Institute for Social Science Research at UCLA, said Thursday that the 20-question survey cannot diagnose depression. But it gives an indication of chronic strain, "a chronic feeling that life is hard."
The findings were based on levels of depressive distress measured through such indicators as the blues, loneliness, fears, physical symptoms, relationship problems and frequency of suicidal thoughts.
The survey of 829 men and 603 women who identified themselves as homosexually active African Americans showed them to have substantially higher levels of chronic strain than heterosexual blacks or whites. The comparisons were based on studies of depressive distress among straight and gay white men and straight blacks of both sexes.
"This study shows that distress and depression are problems that for African American homosexually active men and women have gone unaddressed," Mays said. "Clearly, homosexually active men and women represent a highly stressed population with specific needs for mental health intervention.
"It's a population we haven't heard from before," she added. "African American gay men are just coming to our attention as a result of HIV."