Man-Up Against Suicide seeks to explore queer male issues
After the response to Man-Up Against Suicide's previous photo exhibition about male mental illness and suicide, the project is hoping to explore a more specific area: how depression and suicide affect queer men.
University of British Columbia nursing professor John Oliffe of Man-Up Against Suicide, which is funded by the Movember Foundation and UBC, explained to the Georgia Straight by phone that for their first photo exhibit, they conducted 65 interviews with men and women, who had lost men to suicide or men who experienced suicidal thoughts. Among those interviews were three were gay men, who inspired them to continue to launch an exhibition to specifically explore issues related to gay, bisexual, or queer men in depth.
While they had seen how male suicide impacts heterosexual female partners, he said they are interested in finding out more about how suicide affects partners of the same gender, and particularly how queer men are disproportionately affected.
"I would…imagine there's some unique perspectives to be shared about how you deal with that [loss from suicide] in a time when as a group, gay men are still marginalized," he said, "and sometimes those relationships aren't known to everybody so that can be very blunting, I'm sure, around issues of grieving and also reconciling a loss that's so enormous."
LGBT people, particularly youth, have been known to be more prone to suicide due to discrimination, bullying, rejection, exclusion, omission, negative stereotypes, and more.
Oliffe said they are seeking gay, bisexual, or queer men who have lost a male partner, friend, or relative to suicide or have experienced suicidal thoughts themselves.
Participants will be given camera to take photographs over two-week period to contribute to the photo exhibit, and will receive $100 for participating. If participants have their own camera, they will receive $200.
He said they be collecting data until about April to create an exhibition that will launch on September 22 in Ottawa to draw attention to male suicide. The launch will be held one day before Man Up organizers meet with policy makers and politicians about male suicide.
"It's the actual first step to driving change around policy and getting some targeted prevention programs for men, and gay men," Oliffe said, "because we know this is a significant health issue that affects families and we need to destigmatize it and one of the ways to do that is to begin a conversation about what people have experienced."
Oliffe explained that traditional ideas of masculinity "tend to position men as needing to be autonomous and self-reliant and competitive". Consequently, he noted that when men interpret depressive symptoms as weakness, they may be reluctant to seek professional help and try to manage on their own instead.
"They might end up overusing alcohol and drugs, they might end up in violent situations, they might…over-indulge in sports, work, and those sort of things, which doesn't really address where the depressive symptoms are coming from," he said.
"Historically, depression is kind of thought of as something that might impact women more than men. And it is true it bears out in the epidemiological data but I think that's because we're missing men's depression in clinical settings rather than men not experiencing depression."
For more information about the project, visit the Man Up Against Suicide website. To participate in the project, call 604-822-7638 or send an email.
For queer men seeking assistance with suicidal thoughts or grieving, some options in addition to consulting healthcare professionals include contacting queer community resources such as Qmunity or Health Initiative for Men.