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Being closeted with kin in lockdown is exacting mental toll on LGBTQs

11:59 PM Aug 09, 2020 | Pratip Acharya

The coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, have brought in their wake a host of mental health issues. Increasingly, people are suffering more anxiety and stress having been forced to stay indoors, including those from the LGBTQ community.

Experts say most of those identifying themselves are yet to 'come out' to their families and close friends. But in the last five months, many of them have begun to face discrimination from their own family members.

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"During the lockdown, there has been a steep rise in the number of LGBTQ patients approaching us for counselling. The numbers have steadily increased as the lockdown kept getting extended," said a psychologist, Dr Sandeep Mehra.

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Most LGBTQ members tend to wall themselves off from people and there have been cases when family members have remained unaware about the former's true self, Dr Mehra said.

"Many patients tend to maintain a distance from people, aware that people stigmatise them. Which is why they are facing more problems now, as they are now forced to live with family and extended family under one roof now," said Dr Mehra.

"Most of these people lived outside Mumbai. However, the pandemic forced them to come back home, where are they are often being bullied and discriminated against," he added.

Many parents have also approached doctors, believing that being 'gay' or 'homosexual' is a disease which can be cured, experts are saying. "There have been cases where family members of gay persons contact us, urging us to counsel the ward" informed Dr Hemant Shinde.

"However, in these cases, it is the family that needs counselling. We encourage the family to accept the reality and not put any pressure on their wards," Dr Shinde said.

Those in counselling told The Free Press Journal that most of their family members are either 'homophobic' or archaic, and their reaction takes a toll on the mental health of the LGBTQ family member and pushes them into depression.

A patient of Dr Shinde, on condition of anonymity, told The Free Press Journal, his family often mocked him for his effeminate behaviour so much so that he had a panic attack once.

"My family members consider me to be unwell and in need of treatment. They mock me every day. Thus, being home makes me feel suffocated. I have begun lying often and keeping a watch on my behaviour and this is taking a toll on my mental health," he revealed.

"Before the lockdown I lived in a hostel in Pune, which was a safer place for me, as I don't need to fake it. Because of the lockdown I was forced to return home. I am just counting the days to when can I get back," he said.

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