In addition to the challenges that the general population face, members of the LGBTQ+ community are burdened with experiences related to stigma, marginalisation, and discrimination. These factors make mental health challenges at least twice as likely for this population.

Traumatic experiences and emotional pain from the past can significantly impact our current state of mind without us always being aware of it. These can manifest in various ways, and it is not always easy to recognise the symptoms. However, it is crucial to address mental health challenges as they can significantly impact your quality of life. So, how do you know if you have mental health issues that need to be addressed?

Here are some signs that may indicate you have mental health issues:

  1. Persistent sadness or anxiety
    If you experience persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. These emotions can interfere with your daily activities, such as work,
    school, or relationships.
  1. Social withdrawal
    If you find yourself withdrawing from social activities that you once enjoyed, it may be a sign of a mental health issue. Social withdrawal can be a symptom of depression or anxiety, and it can worsen the condition if left unaddressed.
  2. Poor concentration
    If you struggle to concentrate or have difficulty completing tasks, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. Poor concentration can be a symptom of various conditions such as ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), depression, or anxiety.
  3. Sleep disturbances
    Sleep disturbances such as insomnia (difficulty sleeping) or oversleeping can be a sign of a mental health issue. These problems can cause fatigue, irritability, and difficulty functioning during the day.
  4. Mood swings
    If you experience sudden and extreme changes in mood, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. These changes can be severe and disruptive to your daily life.
  5. Substance abuse
    If you turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with stress or emotions, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. Substance abuse can worsen the symptoms of an existing condition and can lead to addiction.
  6. Physical symptoms
    Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach problems, and chronic pain can be a sign of a mental health issue. These symptoms should also be addressed by your doctor or health care provider, but they can often be triggered by stress or anxiety.
  7. Unusual behaviour
    If you engage in unusual behaviour or find yourself doing things that are out of character, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. These behaviours can be a symptom of a variety of conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
  8. Thoughts of self-harm
    If you experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it is crucial to seek help immediately. These thoughts are a sign of a mental health problem and require immediate attention.
  9. Difficulty coping with stress
    If you find it challenging to cope with stress, it may be a sign of a mental health issue. Coping mechanisms such as self-care or therapy can help you manage stress and improve your mental health.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is essential to consult a counsellor, mental health professional, or at the very least talk about it with someone you trust.

Having mental health difficulties is nothing to be ashamed of; many of us experience some of these challenges at least once in our lives. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and taking care of your mental health is essential for overall well-being.



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As humans, we all have an innate need for social connection and companionship. However, for gay, bi and other men who have sex with men (MSM), this need can often go unfulfilled, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation. The reasons for this are complex and multifaceted.

Even though society has come a long way in terms of accepting same-sex sexuality and relationships, there are still pockets of discrimination and stigmatisation. These attitudes can manifest themselves in various ways, such as hate crimes, bullying, and harassment, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. These negative attitudes can also create barriers when trying to establish relationships, whether they are romantic, platonic, or familial.

Another reason why gay, bisexual, and other MSM can feel lonely is due to the complexities within these communities. Most MSM have experienced rejection and discrimination at some point in their lives, but for some of us, this experience can cause us to fear meeting new people or forming new relationships. This fear of rejection is particularly potent on gay dating or hook-up apps and sites.

Gay culture has often had a bad reputation for being superficial and materialistic. Though this is a stereotype, there are some truths to this. There are broadly three types of gay or MSM that are seen to have currency when it comes to desirability and status.

  • Youth, fame or beauty: These guys often have more social value.
  • Bodliness: A muscled body has more social power and a big penis is objectified as masculine.
  • Materialism. The more money, the higher the social status.

Some men can be relentless in their pursuit of a man that lives up to one or more of these attributes. This is pretty evident in how some of us conduct ourselves online on apps like Grindr where our interactions can be rude, insensitive, or vicious to those that do not sufficiently meet our ideal “standards”.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with casual sex, the focus on physical pleasure rather than emotional connection can leave some gay and MSM feeling empty and unfulfilled. This can lead to a sense of disconnection from others, and a reluctance to seek out deeper connections for fear of being rejected or judged. This fear can lead to avoidance of social situations and isolation.

Past traumas can also contribute to feelings of loneliness and isolation among gay and MSM. Many of us may have experienced trauma, such as physical or emotional abuse, from family members, past relationships, or bad hook-up experiences. These experiences can leave a lasting impact and lead to feelings of mistrust and fear, making it challenging to form new relationships.

Negative self-talk or low self-esteem are other factors that can contribute to loneliness and isolation among gay and MSM. It is not uncommon for us to internalise negative societal attitudes and stigmatisation, which is called internalised homophobia. This can lead to feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem. This negative self-talk can also manifest itself in a reluctance to form new relationships and the belief that we are not worthy of love or feeling that we are not desirable.

Loneliness and isolation can have a significant impact on health and mental well-being. When we are socially isolated, we may be less likely to engage in healthy behaviours like exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep. This can increase our risk of developing chronic health conditions. Social connection and support have been shown to play a vital role in maintaining a healthy immune system.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development is one of the longest and most comprehensive studies of adult life ever conducted. The study has been tracking the lives of 796 participants for over 80 years.

Findings from the study show that people who are more socially connected live longer and have better health outcomes than those who are less connected. It’s not just about the number of relationships, but the quality. The study found that people who had strong, supportive relationships with their spouses, family, and friends tended to be happier, healthier, and even live longer than those who didn’t.

Loneliness is associated with an increased risk for various health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity diabetes, and depression. It has been linked to depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation and can be as damaging to our health as smoking and obesity. Isolation and loneliness can also impact on sleep quality and may increase the risk of developing dementia and other cognitive impairments in later life.

Here are a few things you can consider for combating loneliness and isolation:

  • Build a support system. This can include friends, family, and supportive organisations or groups. Creating a support system can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and provide a sense of belonging.
  • Engaging in activities that promote social interaction can also help combat loneliness and isolation. This can include joining a social group like movie groups or dog walking, volunteering, or attending social events or gatherings.
  • Therapy or going for counselling can also be an effective way to address loneliness and isolation. This can be beneficial to work through past traumas, negative self-talk, and fear of rejection.
  • Practice self-care. People who isolate themselves often stop looking after their appearance and making an effort to look good or presentable. Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally can help you feel more confident and resilient. This can include getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.
  • Connect with others online. The internet can be a great tool for building connections with others, especially during times when it may be difficult to meet in person. Consider joining online forums or social media groups for LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Reconnect with old friends you haven’t spoken to for ages or have neglected.

Remember, it’s okay to feel lonely sometimes. It’s a natural human emotion that we all experience at one point or another. However, if you find yourself consistently feeling isolated and disconnected from others, it’s important to take steps to address these feelings. By seeking out community, practising self-care, and connecting with others online or in person, you can build the support system you need to live a happy, healthier life.



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Infidelity is one of the most devastating things that can happen in a relationship or marriage. According to research, 30-60% of marriages deal with an affair, many of which end in divorce.

Why do people cheat? All relationships change over time and with it changes the dynamics in the relationship. Gay men that have been together for a long time often find that a relationship that started off as passionate and where sex played a big role, transforms into something more like ‘brothers’ or ‘besties’.

Some people cheat because they feel unsatisfied or unfulfilled in their current relationship, while others cheat because they have a desire for novelty or excitement. Some people cheat as a way to cope with personal issues such as low self-esteem, insecurity, or a lack of emotional intimacy in their current relationship.

Additionally, some people cheat due to external factors such as being away from their partner for long periods of time.

Besides the emotional damage of infidelity, it can also significantly impact health. If partners have unprotected sex as a couple but one (or both partners) also have high-risk sex with other people, this puts both at risk for HIV and other STIs. It is very cruel and selfish if one partner has unprotected sex outside the relationship while the other partner is unaware that they are also at risk.

If you have experienced infidelity, it can be difficult to know where to begin to repair the damage. Many, though deeply hurt from the affair, still want to salvage the relationship. Here are some steps you can take to try help you renew trust and work towards rebuilding a relationship:

  • Look at problems that existed in the relationship before the affair happened. Affairs don’t happen in a vacuum and understanding the events and emotions that led up to the affair can help bring healing and potential restoration.
  • Communicate openly and honestly. This is key to rebuilding trust. Both partners must be willing to be open and honest about their feelings, thoughts, and actions.
  • Take responsibility. Accepting responsibility for what has happened is an important step in rebuilding trust. It shows that you are aware of the harm that has been caused and are willing to make amends.
  • Make amends. Apologise and take action to make things right. This might include things like therapy or counselling, or even something as simple as writing a letter of apology.
  • Be patient. Surviving an affair includes much rebuilding of trust and patience on both sides. It can be a bumpy emotional roller coaster ride during the post-affair recovery. Rebuilding trust takes time. Be patient with yourself and your partner as you work through the process.
  • Be open to forgiveness. Forgiveness is a vital step in rebuilding trust. If you were the one who was cheated on, it is normal to feel hurt and angry. Some relationships don’t survive after infidelity because the unfaithful partner’s cheating is used by the other person to keep punishing or controlling them. If you really want it to work, it is important to be open to the possibility of forgiving your partner, even if it takes time. At some point, you may need to let go of the past and focus on the future. This can be difficult, but it is necessary for rebuilding trust.
  • Seek professional help. A therapist or counsellor can help you work through the issues that have led to the breach of trust. They can also help you develop the skills you need to rebuild trust.
  • Trust is built over time through consistent behavior. You need to show up for your partner and stay true to your word by consistently doing what you say you will.
  • Be willing to compromise. Rebuilding trust requires a willingness to compromise. Be open to making changes in your relationship to make things right.
  • Remain committed and show your commitment by making time for each other, doing things together and spending quality time together. Put the phones away and actively listen to your partner.

Rebuilding trust is a process. It’s important to remember that it is not something that you can demand or force; trust is something that must be earned.

Are you having relationship problems and looking for a relationship counsellor? The EMH Mental Health Support Team offers free in-person counselling for gay, bi or other MSM individuals or couples in Johannesburg. To make an appointment or for more info, WhatsApp call or message 063 649 5116.

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Wondering how to think positively in the New Year, despite the uncertainties that cloud your mind? Here are several things you can do to stay positive in 2023:

  • Practice gratitude:
    Take a few minutes each day to think about the things you are thankful for. This can help you focus on the positive aspects of your life and cultivate an overall feeling of positivity.
  • Get enough sleep:
    Getting enough sleep is important for your physical and mental health. Try to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Exercise regularly:
    Exercise has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress. Find an activity you enjoy, such as walking, running, dancing, or cycling, and make it a regular part of your routine.
  • Eat a healthy diet:
    Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-dense foods can help you feel your best and keep your energy levels up.
  • Practice mindfulness:
    Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to your thoughts and feelings in the present moment, without judgment. It can help you stay focused and grounded and improve your overall sense of well-being.
  • Connect with others:
    Humans are social creatures and having strong connections with others is important for our mental health. Make time to spend with friends and family, and seek out opportunities to connect with others who share your interests and values.
  • Give yourself permission to fail:
    Allow yourself permission to fail from time to time without judgement. Everyone fails at some point, but it doesn’t have to be seen as indicative of failure overall; use it instead as an opportunity to learn.
  • Focus on progress rather than perfection:
    You don’t need everything to be perfect all at once. Focus instead on celebrating even small successes which add up over time.
  • Prioritise ‘me-time’ every day:
    Allow yourself enough time each day through activities such as meditation, mindfulness practices or simply enjoying silence; this helps maintain balance between mind, body and spirit.
  • Talk kindly with yourself:
    Pay attention to any unhelpful thoughts going through your mind and question them if necessary! Be mindful of negative language and thoughts about yourself.
  • Embrace change:
    Don’t be afraid to try something new. Making changes in our lives is often essential for personal growth.
  • Set boundaries:
    Boundaries are an essential part of maintaining a sense of well-being and building a joyful life. Whether you want to establish boundaries in your personal or professional life, these work to protect you, whilst also helping you to establish your own identity. Without them, we can lose touch with our intuition and end up feeling burnt out and resentful.
  • Disconnect with a digital detox:
    A digital detox is a period during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones, computers, and tablets, to improve their overall well-being. A digital detox can help you reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and increase productivity. It can also be a way to reconnect with the world around you and to engage in activities that do not involve screens.
  • Acts of kindness:
    Acts of kindness are actions taken to help or benefit someone else, often without expecting anything in return. These acts can be small, such as holding the door open for someone, or they can be more significant, like volunteering time or resources to a charitable cause. Performing acts of kindness has been shown to have many benefits, including improving mood and well-being, strengthening social connections, and creating a sense of purpose and meaning.
  • Immerse yourself in nature
    After restrictions and lockdowns, embracing the great outdoors has become even more necessary, especially as time spent in nature can improve mood, boost resilience, and reduce stress. Moments of escapism can be found wherever you’re staying, be it a hike, a walk in a park or spending time in your garden.
  • Seek help and support:
    Several factors contribute to higher rates of depression, suicide, and addiction in the LGBT community. One may be the discrimination and stigma that LGBT individuals often face. This can lead to feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, and a lack of acceptance, which can in turn contribute to poor mental health. Additionally, LGBT individuals may have a harder time accessing mental health care and may be less likely to seek help due to fear of discrimination. This year, don’t hesitate to seek out supportive mental health resources and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
EMH’s mental health support team offers free in-person, telephonic or online counselling (individual or couples), and referrals to gay, bi and other men who have sex with men in Johannesburg. If you’re experiencing feelings of depression, anxiety or dealing with trauma, relationship problems, or even stress about coming out, WhatsApp call or message 063 649 5116. (We can also refer you to other services outside the Johannesburg area.)
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