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Could Therapy Save Your Life?

By The Gay UK, Jan 8 2016 02:52PM

As a psychotherapist, the current news around suicide, immigration, and HIV transmission, troubles me greatly.

CREDIT: kwest / Depositphotos.com

CREDIT: kwest / Depositphotos.com
It is only a matter of months since we heard that Vikki Thompson, despite being known to be at serious risk in custody, was sent to a male prison anyway, resulting in her making the upsetting decision to end her life. The reverberations around the country have been vast – people are now engaging in dialogue about suicide, considering the fate of transgender men and women in the prison estate, alongside considering the wider concerns around the risk of suicide to the LGBTF community. For those of us who are part of this community, the concerns are real, and significant. But what are, roughly, the facts?
In terms of stats, you are all probably aware that the majority of suicides are male (of the 6,233 reported suicides in the UK during 2013, 4,858 of those were men, and 1,375 were women (Samaritans’ Report, 2015). Males – and usually white males – between the ages of 49 and 65 were particularly at risk, especially professionals such as doctors, social workers, and solicitors. In addition, suicide amongst the LGBT youth is notable, with LGBT teens and young adults having one of the highest rates of suicide attempts in comparison with the rest of the population. The situation is truly disturbing for us, our families, and our friends. For those left behind when someone ends their life, recovery can be arduous at best. Even more sadly, the lack of a therapist who shares the same sexual identity can significantly impact the quality of the therapeutic relationship from developing at all. But what can we do about it?
The statutory services are often less than helpful. Without casting ‘shade’ on my Health colleagues, who work hard under very difficult circumstances, waiting lists remain high, the quick fix agenda is still rampant, and getting a therapy which will actually do what it sets out to do is rarely available, despite promises otherwise. Rather unconventionally, in a country where we expect to be treated for everything for free, my humble suggestion would be for anyone with a need for some emotional support, is to consider paying for the therapy yourself. Here are some things to think about in order to help your decision:
• There are often no waiting lists in private practice.

• Choice actually means something. If your therapeutic alliance is not working, find someone else.

• An hour’s therapy costs the equivalent of a meal out, or a pair of jeans.

• Your happiness is priceless.

* Therapy can take as long as you need it to, not just six sessions.

• Many therapies are available online, i.e. Skype, meaning you don’t even need to go out of your home.

• Confidentiality is more meaningful, as there will be no trace on your health record. At all.
The thing is, research supports the idea that therapy can be really helpful. For myself (yes, therapists are required to complete their own therapy) the therapy was life-changing. Therapy can help alleviate difficult feelings to the point where, for example, with depression, the impact can rival anti-depressants, and the effects can be felt for much longer afterwards. Some people report that therapy has been profound, with many people wishing they’d made the decision much earlier. Isn’t it about time you considered trying therapy for yourself?
About Andrew Smith:

Andrew is the clinical director of TherAppUK Ltd, an organisation based in Greater Manchester that provides a range of therapeutic solutions to individuals, families, and groups. He is also a doctoral researcher at the University of Huddersfield, and lives in the Calder Valley with his partner, Nigel, their son, a neurotic Chihuahua called Chicky, and two cats. If you have any urgent concerns about your own or someone else’s emotional health, please call 999 or NHS Direct. If this is a matter that can wait until one of our therapists can call you back, please email Andrew on andrew.smith@therapp.org
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HPV vaccination should be extended to gay men

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Campaigners are hoping that the jab given to protect against cervical cancer will be widened to include gay men

It is estimated that of the 77,917 gay men who visited a sexual health clinic in 2010, 16,962 of those under 26 would have been eligible to have the jab if it were available. Photograph: Alamy


Human papilloma virus (HPV) is best known for causing most cases of cervical cancer. But Pavol Krascenic became infected as a result of having sex with his then boyfriend. Unfortunately for Krascenic, as a result of contracting HPV, he was diagnosed with a precursor to anal cancer, which is hard to treat. Despite four operations to curb its spread, he is in terrible pain much of the time. “The steroid cream I got from a London hospital made no difference and the painkillers I take every day are so strong they make me feel like I’m on another planet, like I’m drunk, and even then I still have the pain and often have to lie down to relieve it,” says the 31-year-old who was a chef in London until 2009 when his condition left him unable to work and seriously depressed.
The pre-cancerous growths in the anus also weaken a sufferer’s immune system and, for gay men, leaves them more likely to get infected with HIV. In 2008, Krascenic was diagnosed with that too, which made the growths more painful. “A lot of gay men don’t know about HPV or think that it only affects girls, but HPV is dangerous,” he says. “Gay men are often shocked and surprised when they find out it’s something that can affect them too.”
Krascenic is supporting a new campaign by doctors, sexual health experts, politicians and charities, including the Terrence Higgins Trust, for gay men to be offered a vaccination against HPV in the same way that 12- and 13-year-old girls already are in order to protect them against cervical cancer – research suggests the vaccination is effective for those under 26. “If I’d known there was a vaccination against HPV I would have paid for it myself, given what I know about the virus,” says Krascenic.
The possibility of gay men becoming eligible for the HPV vaccination may move closer on Wednesday when the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – experts who advise the government on the use of vaccination to tackle any medical condition – discuss the issue. If they approve it, this would prevent gay men worried about HPV having to pay up to £450 to be immunised privately, which at the moment is their only option. Of the 77,917 gay men who visited a sexual health clinic in 2010, 16,962 of those under 26 would have been eligible to have the jab if it were available, sexual health experts estimate.
Lord Fowler, widely admired for his work as the Conservative government’s health secretary when Aids emerged in the 1980s, has written to Anne Milton, the public health minister, calling gay men’s exclusion from HPV jabs “clearly unequal and unfair”.
He wrote: “There is a clear inequity in the HPV vaccination programme offered to all 12- and 13-year-old girls. As the four strains of HPV vaccinated against are sexually transmitted, heterosexual males will eventually receive indirect protection against the related cancers and genital warts by a herd immunity effect. Men who have sex with men, meanwhile, receive no such protection, despite increasing rates of anal cancer in this group.”
The number of men in Britain diagnosed with anal cancer rose from 100 a year in 1975-77 to around 370 a year in 2007-2009. The number of deaths went from 20 to 120 a year over the same period, according to Cancer Research UK. HPV also causes penile, oral and throat cancers in gay men, with the virus again transmitted sexually. Extending HPV jabs to gay men would be cost-effective and save the NHS money, it is argued.
Peter Greenhouse, a gynaecologist specialising in sexual health and spokesman for the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), says the UK should learn from Australia where there has been a huge drop in genital warts in both young women and young men since it began giving girls the HPV jab in 2007. Young gay men, though, have not seen the same benefit. “That has prompted some sexual health clinics to start offering them the injections so that their future sexual behaviour does not harm their health, in the same way that gay men in both Australia and the UK are already immunised against Hepatitis B,” he says.
The Australian government’s pharmaceutical benefits advisory committee last year advised ministers that boys as well as girls aged 12 and 13 should receive the vaccine, though the federal health minister has yet to concur. Similarly, in the US the federal advisory committee on immunisation practices (ACIP) has recommended that the jab be offered to 11- and 12-year-old boys and males aged 13 to 21 who were not vaccinated previously, as well as men aged 22 to 26 who are gay, bisexual or who have a compromised immune system. The US government has yet to respond.
In the UK, Krascenic is in no doubt about what the JCVI’s decision should be: “It’s unfair that the vaccine is only for girls and that gay men can’t get it. This is a public health problem, so the vaccination should be free on the NHS.” He adds: “I’m costing the government much more now, in healthcare costs and welfare benefits, because I’m ill and out of work. But if the vaccine had been available, I might have avoided this.”

 

Further reading:

 

  1. Wikipedia on HPV
  2. NHS Choices on HPV