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'Biphobia Drove Me To My Suicide Attempt' - Why Discrimination Needs To Stop

22/03/2017 12:33 GMT | Updated 22/03/2017 12:33 GMT
Stuart Dee via Getty Images

*Some names have been changed to protect identities.

He sat precariously on the window sill, staring at the street pavement 140 feet below him, wanting to die.

The evening spring air was fairly warm on his skin but for 14-year-old George* it was just another day permeated by depression. He breathed deeply, all the time mustering the courage to jump from his bedroom window sill to his death. His body shock as he closed his eyes and imagined a swift end to his suffering.

George almost committed suicide that day. After two years of battling with mental illness, he wanted to die - because he thought that being bisexual meant something was wrong with him.

"I had to measure every single sentence I made, so my friends wouldn't laugh at me and call me 'gay' as an insult. I didn't understand why I felt that way, when the rest of my friends didn't. I felt like I wasn't normal," he says.

The difference between jumping and not jumping can be the briefest thought that crosses someone's mind before they make that final step. For George, it was the thought of summer camp in Canada, where he hoped things would be different. People's attitudes can make the difference between someone choosing life or death.

Since realising he was attracted to both sexes, George has kept his identity hidden from his family and friends. Growing up in a Spanish family, talk of his sexuality was quite a taboo. "In Spain, for some older people, it just isn't accepted," he says. "In my family, being anything other than straight doesn't cross anyone's mind."

Surrounded by people who were much more open about mental health and sexual orientation, the summer camp made life seem worth living. "It gave me the strength to keep going. It is quite hard to try and pretend to be something else in front of almost everyone I know," he says.

He's one of many bisexual people who face adversity both in and outside of the LGB community- and it's ruining their mental health. Now that preparations are well under-way for Gay Pride 2017, it's time we addressed this discrimination.

When he was 13, George was diagnosed with Cyclothymia, which is a mild form of bipolar disorder. Now 21-years-old and studying engineering at Sheffield University, he says the comments people make about bisexuality caused his mental health problems.

"The comments would make me feel even more depressed. They pushed me toward my suicide attempt," he says.

Studies from across the UK and the rest of the world all show a similar trend. BiUK, The UK National Organisation for Bisexual Research and Activism, concluded that, of all the common sexual identity groups, bisexual people are most likely to have mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and self-harm tendencies. They are also the most at risk of committing suicide.

As many as four out of 10 people who identify as bisexual have been diagnosed with depression, according to MentalHelp.net. That's double the rate of straight people.

Rebecca Jones, Health Lecturer at The Open University and co-writer of The Bisexuality Report, which is the only of its kind, said that the instances of mental health issues are because of prejudice, known as 'biphobia'.

21-year-old History student Lucy* realised she was bisexual at the age of 12, and has dealt with discrimination since. She heard her mother make comments about Lucy 'not being sure' and 'testing the waters.' Then, in her first year of university, Lucy's anxiety soared when was called a 'wannabe dyke' by male friends.

"I've kept this large part of me from my parents, and I am fearful of telling people. I have heard a lot of people say that bisexuality is just an excuse to be a slut," she says.

Faced with this kind of reaction, it's no surprise that UK Mind found bisexual men and women are less likely to be out to their family, friends, GP's and mental health professionals than lesbian and gay people. People might avoid using mental health services because of biphobia, even though their mental health issues have nothing to do with their sexuality.

One form of biphobia is 'denialism'. People are assumed to be either exclusively heterosexual or homosexual, and are told they are either gay and lying or just experimenting.

"People accept that a lesbian is a lesbian, whether or not they are in a relationship; for bisexual people it gets defined by the relationships you're in," says Rebecca

From having more bisexual story-lines in the media to organisations like Pink Therapy, education and better representation of bisexuality may be the best way to tackle biphobia and save people from dangerous discrimination.

Like with any societal change, it will take time to alter the story on bisexuality, but with people's mental health at stake, it's something we can't ignore.