Since New Year’s Eve, gay social media has been in an uproar. Gay men are getting called out for hosting and attending massive parties during the deadliest time of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Videos of a gay party boat sinking, pictures of crowded circuit parties, and memes referencing these events are drawing commentary from the gay masses and holding these men accountable for their actions (or shaming them, depending on some people’s perspective).
As a licensed clinical social worker and gay man, I see this as a mass conscious awakening that has the potential to bring much needed healing and growth to gay men. However, it’s going to be a rough journey for some. In our professional therapeutic and coaching experience, we know that these types of self-awakenings are necessary for healing and are sometimes difficult for clients to navigate — even in a safe space and with a skilled professional. This is what a large number of men in our community are having to do right now. The difference is that they’re navigating this without having planned or prepared for it, are in a virtual free-for-all environment with an international spotlight on them, and without a mental health professional guiding the discussion.
If you are a clinical therapist or a life coach who is a gay man or has experience working with gay men, your voice, skills, knowledge, guidance, and wisdom are needed.
The potential impact on mental health
Gay men are reckoning with deep-seeded issues in our culture that have culminated into this current juncture. We are being forced to witness the maladaptive mindsets that lead adult gay men to cling to a lifestyle that puts them and others in real danger during the pandemic. We are also seeing frustration, anger, disappointment, vilification, and more from the collective.
The targets of all of this outrage are men who have been given the nickname “PV Gays.” The spotlight that’s being placed on them will have a mental and emotional impact. Some may lose jobs, struggle financially, be socially ostracized, and more. Access to healthy coping skills, spaces, and activities may be limited or completely out of reach, as many will be returning to locations with strict shutdowns for the pandemic. Some may have active substance use issues and other unhealthy coping/numbing mechanisms. It’s a perfect storm for a mental health disaster.
This is all happening to a community and gay men who already have a life experience filled with issues such as rejection, complicated self-worth, body image issues, and more. I go deeper into this aspect of the gay male experience in my article “Gay Men & the Culture that Creates ‘PV Gays.’” With that said, this community awakening has the potential to impact even those who chose to do the right thing and stay home. A mirror is being held up to gay men that reflects the culture that they live in and promote. The comments on social media tell us that gay men are processing, reflecting, and have a strong desire for change.
For fellow licensed mental health professionals, we know that we have to meet people where they are. With this said, some of the gay men who need our support right now may not have the access, means, or the willingness to seek help. This is why helping professionals, therapists and life coaches alike, must do what we can to turn on our lighthouse to signal to the gay community that we’re here and ready to help.
How do we do this?
5 ways to help during this crucial time
Whether you are in a position to take on new clients, offer an online course, have a podcast, a blog, or an online social media presence, you can get involved in facilitating healing and growth. Here are five ways in which you can offer support to gay men during this time.
1. Stay informed and spread the word
By now, there are countless news outlets that are reporting and advancing this community conversation. One way to locate these videos and articles is by searching “PV Gays” online. Another way to stay informed is to read comments on social media posts that focus on this issue. One account that is at the center of this discussion is GaysOverCovid on Instagram.
Share information and have conversations with other therapists and life coaches. This is the time to rally each other and to keep a pulse on the community we feel passionate and are invested in seeing heal and grow.
2. Be part of the conversation
In the midst of the flood of comments, memes, and videos on social media, there is are strong demands to cancel people, hold them accountable, and reprimand their actions. What exactly does this look and sound like? What can gay men say to each to bring about the change they want to see? What is being triggered and where is it rooted?
These are all questions we have skilled and insightful answers to. Offer up your wisdom and knowledge on substance recovery, communication skills, trauma, spirituality, vulnerability, self-worth, and more. A psychologist who has been actively participating and guiding the conversation is Dr. Greg Cason. Check out his Instagram account and website.
3. Prepare a statement
Some clinicians and life coaches don’t have a social media presence or practice mindful usage. If this is the case for you or if a one-time contribution sounds more appealing to you, a well-crafted statement can go a long way. Your statement can provide courage, insight, promote empathy, name the ways in which professional support can be useful for those struggling at this time, and more. Share it on your social media, newsletter, website, podcast, or any other form of external communication.
Once you have a clear understanding of what is happening in the gay male community and what the needs are, let your inner voice and desire to help others navigate tough times guide you.
4. Promote your services
You have skills that are needed at this time — make them and yourself known! Now is a great time to promote and market your services. Help normalize gay men seeking and getting help by welcoming them to your website, videos, online course, blog, podcast, etc.
The more visible we are, the better chance we’ll have to reach the people who need our support.
5. Share resources and make referrals
If you are currently booked (way to go!) or aren’t able provide an offering at this time, share resources and make referrals! Connect to your professional network and gather information that can be shared out.
For a sample list of resources, check out the “Resources” section of my article “Gay Men & the Culture that Creates ‘PV Gays.’”
As a gay man and mental health/wellness colleague, I want to thank you for all that you do for gay men and other members of the LGBTQ+ community. The healing and growth that you facilitate is important, valuable, and commendable. If you are currently not in a mental, emotional, or spiritual place to provide support, I understand. I encourage you to practice self-care now and always. We are all doing our part to help others survive these tough times. Fill your cup so that you can pour onto others another day.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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