This article was written by Keith Winestein, a member of the Speakers Collective. Keith shares his lived experience of mental health, HIV and AIDS to help others challenge prejudice and to change behaviour.
Lockdown helped me look at me – an ageing, single, gay man who survived one pandemic and is determined to survive Covid. So, what has my Covid experience been like?
It’s A Sin sparked questions. I realised I have issues. Deeply buried. Not dealt with in four decades. Survivor guilt, vicarious trauma, bereavement. These experiences affected me as a young gay man. Fear of HIV. Grief after losing friends to AIDS. I needed to talk about how had I survived the AIDS pandemic. Picking up the phone, older gay friends got it and really understood what I was feeling.
There are many gay men my age who experienced stigma and discrimination. Many of us still dealing with it. I don’t want to forget those years as a young gay man working in HIV and Gay rights. National AIDS Trust was the first workplace I could be authentic and open about my sexuality.
It concerns me that the LGBTQI+ community has higher rates of suicidal distress, anxiety and depression. Around 1 in 3 of us are dealing with mental health problems compared to 1 in 4 in the general population. People who are LGBTQI+ are more likely to experience poor mental health and may also be impacted because of other compounded prejudice (e.g. BAME and disability).
The current Covid pandemic has potentially worsened the mental health of 20+ million people in the UK. I am among those as I reflect on my life and the challenges of Covid recovery. To get through lockdown, I followed four of the Five Ways to Wellbeing:
As a middle-aged gay man, my lived experience helps me embrace my identity. This has a positive impact on my wellbeing and confidence. I am free to express and accept myself with patience and to deal with whatever happens next. It will enable me to watch It’s a Sin again with acceptance, gratitude and pride.
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