Experiences of professional mental health help-seeking and engagement with services among emerging adult men identifying as gay

Suzanne M. Cosh*, Mitchell Doyle, Amy D. Lykins, Laura H. Clark

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Objective: Gay men have higher rates of psychological distress and greater dissatisfaction with mental health services than heterosexual men. Emerging adulthood is a vulnerable period representing a crucial period of sexual identity formation. Understanding of experiences during engagement with professional mental health services by gay men remains limited, especially in emerging adulthood. This study explored emerging adult gay men’s experiences during their engagement with professional mental health help-seeking. Method: In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven gay-identifying cisgender men. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Results: An overarching theme of perseverance was identified, with two themes of navigating anticipatory heterosexism and renegotiating pathology. Navigating anticipatory heterosexism included subthemes of selective disclosure and seeking “safe” practitioners. In renegotiating pathology, interviewees described delineating distress, thereby separating sexual identity from their mental health presentation, as well as normalising distress resulting from experiences of prejudice and minority stress. These themes encapsulate how participants reported navigating sexual identity-based challenges during the help-seeking process, thereby persevering and continuing with help-seeking. Conclusions: Results highlight how mental healthcare can be navigated and underscore the need to: 1) enhance signalling safety to sexually diverse client groups, and 2) increase practitioner cultural competency to reduce stigma or heterosexism in experiences of healthcare.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalClinical Psychologist
Early online date1 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Apr 2024

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