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Ban needed on ‘torturous’ electroconvulsive therapy

Electroshock’s brutal and sordid history ranges from its use to help slaughter pigs, to punishment, painful “aversion therapy” on homosexuals, inflicting brain damage on children and others, and to torture humans.

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Mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) International announced that a ban of electroshock treatment — the practice of up to 460 volts of electricity to the brain to “treat mental disorder” — should be imminent in light of increasing reports of patients being damaged and deaths.

In Texas in the US, the only state to record deaths within 14 days of electroshock being administered, reported a death rate in recent years that represents an estimated 300 deaths nationally each year. The most frequent causes of death have been cardiac events and suicide, according to one study [1].

Electroshock’s brutal and sordid history ranges from its use to help slaughter pigs, to punishment, painful “aversion therapy” on homosexuals, inflicting brain damage on children and others, and to torture humans.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has never obtained a single clinical trial from the manufacturers of the electroshock devices proving their safety and efficacy. Under Section 516 of the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, the FDA has a duty to ban devices that present “substantial deception or unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury.” Electroshock, also called electroconvulsive therapy or ECT, can cause brain damage, long-term memory loss and death, constituting more than a “substantial risk” and is far from safe and effective, according to thousands of survivors’ complaints.[2] Ignoring these dangers, the FDA has instead limited bans under this Section to prohibiting the use of powdered gloves in medical or surgical procedures and prosthetic hair fiber implants that may trigger inflammation and hypersensitivity reactions, the latter, the FDA says, were misrepresented in marketing as “safe, effective and causing little or no discomfort.”

While the FDA allows the ECT device to remain on the market, it doesn’t regulate how it is used, giving psychiatrists a free-for-all to administer it to whomever they choose. This has meant that children younger than five and toddlers have been subjected to the violence of this shock procedure in at least five states that CCHR has established through Freedom of Information Act requests. Despite a report from the United Nations committee on Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment that warns electroshock without consent constitutes torture, ECT continues to be given to involuntary patients without consent.[3]

Pregnant women and their unborn babies are also not protected from ECT, despite the World Federation of Societies of Anesthesiology saying that ECT is “absolutely contraindicated” in pregnancy.[4] Researchers of Maine Medical Center have found brain damage in a baby whose mother had undergone ECT while pregnant.[5] The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine also warns of potential spontaneous abortion, placental abruption, cardiac arrhythmias, fetal burn and intrauterine fetal death when a pregnant woman experiences general electrical shock.[6] Yet, the APA claims that it’s safe during all trimesters.[7]

Jan Eastgate, president of CCHR International, said: “Electroshock is mental euthanasia, with a long history of being used for torture and abuse. Electric shock eradicates memory. It should never be condoned or permitted because quite apart from its inhuman aspects, patients consider it bluntly criminal, especially when forced on them. Psychiatrists and the FDA pass off electric shock machines as wonderful, even though they can kill patients.” Sign CCHR’s Petition to Ban the Electroshock (ECT) Device.

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The impact of any electrical shock upon a body for any purpose is very dangerous. Researchers from the University of Montreal have shown that any electric shock above 120 volts can “cause neurologic and neuropsychological symptoms in humans. Following an electrical injury, some patients may show various emotional and behavioral aftereffects, such as memory loss and symptoms of depression.”[8] ECT uses up to 460 volts, deliberately inducing a grand mal seizure that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) says can last up to 30 minutes.

ECT: Slaughters Pigs and Tortures

ECT was invented in fascist Italy in 1937 by psychiatrist Ugo CerlettiDarius Rejali, author of Torture and Modernity, wrote of Cerletti “having killed a few dogs by experimentation” and then “discovered that Roman slaughterhouses used electrocution to slaughter pigs.” Cerletti “discovered that pigs could be shocked several times and would revive after a few minutes.” He then applied ECT to humans, his first victim screaming that it was “deadly.” “The torture and ‘treatments’ of the insane” historically has derived from the “application to animals in abattoirs,” Rejali stated.[9]

Cerletti’s device very rapidly pressed into political service, Rejali said. In August 2017, a paper published in History of Psychiatry documented how “The Nazi political and medical establishment” regarded ECT as a means “to empty psychiatric institutions, thereby relieving the state of the burden…” Psychiatrist Emil Gelny “added four extra electrodes to existing ECT machines, which were attached to patients’ wrists and ankles to deliver the lethal shocks after patients were knocked unconscious by the initial current applied to the head.”[10]

In the 1950s, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) expressed considerable interest in ECT devices. In 1951, Project Artichoke, then MK-ULTRA under Deputy CIA Director Richard Helms in 1953, aimed to control human behavior through hallucinogenic drugs and electroshock.[11] Dr. Ewen Cameron, the first president of the World Psychiatric Association, while professor of psychiatry at McGill University in Canada in the 1950s and 60s, developed his own version of shock treatment, using the UK Page-Russell electroshock device invented in 1948. Cameron called his shock technique “de-patterning” deliberately wiping out patient memories by the use of intensive ECT. The CIA funded his work.[12] He described the procedure on a patient to the 2nd World Congress of Psychiatry in 1957, stating: “There is complete amnesia for all events of his life.”[13]

Electroshock ‘took away her soul’

In 2017, 60 years after Cameron’s experiments left her mother damaged for life, Alison Steel obtained a $100,000settlement from the Canadian government over Cameron’s experiments. “She was never able to really function as a healthy human being because of what they did to her,” Steel stated. “Her emotions were stripped. It took away her soul.”[14]

Electroshock is also used for torture, including on prisoners of the French during the 1954-62 Algerian War.[15] Journalist Gordon Thomas reported that in 1961, Moroccan king Hassan II’s security service was fully staffed with doctors who supervised a wide range of tortures of political detainees using several Page-Russell electroshock machines.[16] Chinese dissidents and members of the religious group The Falun Gong are still subjected to electroshock and “other barbaric forms of torture designed by prison guards to humiliate and inflict maximum pain.”[17]

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Until 1973, when the APA de-classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, electroshock treatment was used in an effort to prevent or eliminate homosexual behavior.[18] Other forms of shock included jolts of electricity administered to the skin and body, sometimes directly to the genitals.[19] Voltage of such devices ranged anywhere from 150-200 volts and on children for behavioral control, 300-400 volts.[20] Allegations that psychiatrists and any others recommending ECT to treat the LGBT community today are homophobic and cruel, CCHR says.[21]

Brain Damage and Memory Loss

Yet the FDA and APA continue to ignore the perils of ECT.

  • In March 2016, a coroner from Sunderland County in the UK determined Elsie Tindle died after electroshock triggered an epileptic fit which caused irreparable brain damage.[22]
  • A 2012 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported a considerable “decrease in functional connectivity” between the prefrontal lobes of the brain and other parts of the brain after ECT. The most extensive long-term follow-up study indicates that “most ECT patients will never recover from the damage in the form of persistent severe mental deficits.”[23]
  • Austin, Texas, psychologist John Breeding, who heads the Coalition for the Abolition of Electroshock, said, “The bottom line is that ECT ‘works’ to the extent that it damages and disables the brain.”[24] Breeding dispels psychiatric theories that the procedure is safer today than its “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” days in the 60s. He says that ECT has more potential for harm than ever. Much higher voltages are employed in the modern procedure because muscle relaxants and anesthetics raise the seizure threshold, with more electricity required to produce a seizure. The greater heat and electricity themselves cause more brain cell death, he says. He concludes “Given what we know about the resulting brain damage, I think this is a form of assault…”[25]
  • Leading ECT researcher and advocate, psychologist Harold Sackeim admitted in an editorial in The Journal of ECT that “virtually all patients experience some degree of persistent and, likely, permanent retrograde amnesia.”[26] In a January 2007 study published in Neuropsychopharmacology, Sackeim and colleagues acknowledged that ECT may cause permanent amnesia and permanent deficits in cognitive abilities, which affect ability to function.[27]
  • In 2005, Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Denise de Bellefeuille ruled that a psychiatrist and Santa Barbarapsychiatric facility deceived its patients by failing to tell them that ECT causes irreversible memory loss. The psychiatrist (who had performed shock treatment for over 20 years), admitted that neither he nor anyone else understands how shock treatment works, and that the consent form Johnson provided to patients was “decidedly misleading in a critical regard,” concerning the permanency of memory loss.[28]

Last year, psychologist John Read, professor of clinical psychology at the University of East London concluded from a comprehensive review of 91 studies on ECT that “Given the well-documented high risk of persistent memory dysfunction, the cost-benefit analysis for ECT remains so poor that its use cannot be scientifically, or ethically, justified.”[29]

Eastgate says, “To treat mental problems by electric shocks is brutality in the name of mental health care. The high death rate, severe memory loss and the brain atrophy and damage ECT causes warrants it being banned under existing FDA law.”

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REFERENCES:

[1] “An Analysis of Reported Deaths Following Electroconvulsive Therapy in Texas, 1993-1998,” 1 Aug 2001https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ps.52.8.1095.

[2] Jonathan Emord & Associates, Citizens Petition filed with the FDA Commissioner, 14 Aug. 2016, pp. 14, 27 and 42, http://emord.com/blawg/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/1-ECT-Citizen-Petition.pdf.

[3] A/HRC/22/53, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez,” United Nations, General Assembly, Human Rights Council, Twenty-second Session, Agenda Item 3, 1 Feb. 2013, p. 1, Summary.

[4] https://www.wfsahq.org/documents/306%20Anaesthesia%20for%20Electro-convulsive%20Therapy%20ECT.pdf.

[5] http://www.mindfreedom.org/kb/mental-health-abuse/electroshock/pregnancy-study, citing Jacquelyn BlackstoneMichael G. PinetteCamille SantarpioJoseph R. Wax, “Electroconvulsive Therapy in Pregnancy.” Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2007, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, http://greenjournal.org/cgi/content/short/110/2/465.

[6] “Electric shock in pregnancy: a review,” The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, Vol. 29, 2014, Issue 2, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/14767058.2014.1000295?journalCode=ijmf20.

[7] https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/articles/electroconvulsive-therapy-during-pregnancy.

[8] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080515113311.htmUniversity of Montreal. “Electric Shocks Can Cause Neurologic And Neuropsychological Symptoms.” ScienceDaily16 May 2008https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080515113311.htm.

[9] Darius Rejali, “Electricity: The Global History Of A Torture Technology,” http://www.reed.edu/poli_sci/faculty/rejali/articles/History_of_Electric_Torture.htmlPetr Skrabanek, PhD., “Convulsive Therapy – A Critical Appraisal of its Origins and Value,” Irish f’.’lcdicaIJourIlo,, June 1986, Volume 79, No. 6.

[10] https://psmag.com/news/nazis-ruin-everything; G Gazdag, GS Ungvari, and H Czech, “Mass killing under the guise of ECT: the darkest chapter in the history of biological psychiatry,” History of Psychiatry, Sage Publications, 2017.

[11] Stephen Lendman, “Meet Maryam Ruhullah: A Victim of MK-ULTRA,” Countercurrents.org16 Feb. 2010https://www.countercurrents.org/lendman160210.htm.

[12] Leonard Roy Frank, “Electroshock: Death, Brain Damage, Memory Loss, and Brainwashing,” The Journal of Mind and Behaviour, Summer and Autumn 1990; Leonard Roy Frank, Editor, “The Electroshock Quotationary,” June 2006http://www.endofshock.com/102C_ECT.pdfhttp://www.brown.uk.com/brownlibrary/FRANK.htm.

[13] Op. cit.Leonard Roy Frank, “The Electroshock Quotationary.”

[14] https://stillnessinthestorm.com/2017/11/canadian-government-quietly-compensates-daughter-of-mkultra-victi/.

[15] Leonard Roy Frank, Editor, The History of Shock Treatment, 1978.

[16] Gordon ThomasJourney Into Madness, The True Story of Secret CIA Mind Control and Medical Abuse, (Bantam Books) 1989.

[17] https://www.news.com.au/world/asia/extreme-torture-inside-chinas-correctional-facilities/news-story/7e4a796bc1401d593f5cc58d7fd32ecb.

[18] Patrick Strudwick, “This Gay Man Was Given Repeated Electric Shocks By British Doctors to Make Him Straight,” Buzz Feed30 Sept 2017https://www.buzzfeed.com/patrickstrudwick/this-gay-man-was-given-repeated-electric-shocks-by-british?utm_term=.orlQxe4JR#.coV1dRZOn.

[19] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamie-scot/shock-the-gay-away-secrets-of-early-gay-aversion-therapy-revealed_b_3497435.htmlhttps://www.madinamerica.com/2014/09/fda-panel-rejects-aversive-therapy-shock-devices/https://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/07/inside_judge_rotenberg_center.html.

[20] https://www.madinamerica.com/2014/09/fda-panel-rejects-aversive-therapy-shock-devices/https://books.google.com/books?id=qpcuDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT137&lpg=PT137&dq=aversion+therapy+electroshock+used+70+volts+of+electricity&source=bl&ots=3dqOdCCa7X&sig=-ddCLbjl6FUOI6LspJdjZEBm4-M&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiawZX-p8fcAhWWFjQIHf8ACNk4ChDoATADegQIAxAB#v=onepage&q=aversion%20therapy%20electroshock%20used%2070%20volts%20of%20electricity&f=false.

[21] Emily Reynolds, “The cruel, dangerous reality of gay conversion therapy,” Wired7 July 2018https://www.wired.co.uk/article/what-is-gay-conversion-therapy.

[22] Petra Silfverskiold, “Electric shock therapy led to Sunderland patient having permanent fit,” Daily Mail (UK), 10 Mar. 2016http://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/local/all-news/electric-shock-therapy-led-to-sunderland-patient-having-permanent-fit-1-7786233.

[23] Peter Breggin, “New Study Confirms Electroshock (ECT) Causes Brain Damage,” Huffington Post, 9 Apr. 2012https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-peter-breggin/electroshock-treatment_b_1373619.html.

[24] John Breeding, Ph.D., “Electroshocking Children: Why It Should Be Stopped,” Mad in America11 Feb. 2014https://www.madinamerica.com/2014/02/electroshocking-children-stopped/.

[25] Op. cit.John Breeding, Ph.D., “Electroshocking Children: Why It Should Be Stopped”; John Breeding, Ph.D., “Chapter 9: Electroshock,” http://www.wildestcolts.com/psych_opp/d-electroshock/1-shock.html.

[26] IbidJohn Breeding, Ph.D., “Electroshocking Children: Why It Should Be Stopped.”

[27] Ibid., citing, Sackeim et al., “The Cognitive Effects of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Community Settings” Neuropsychopharmacology, Volume 32, Number 1, 2007.

[28] Charles D. Morgan, “Milestone case: Hospital ordered to cease shocking patients,” https://suemypsychiatrist.wordpress.com/category/ect/.

[29] John ReadChelsea Arnold, “Is Electroconvulsive Therapy for Depression More Effective Than Placebo? A Systematic Review of Studies Since 2009,” Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry Volume 19, Number 1, 2017, pp. 5-23(19), http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/springer/ehpp/2017/00000019/00000001/art00002.

Health & Wellness

Sexual minority women less likely to receive appropriate sexual, reproductive health support

A research emphasizes the importance of considering both sexual orientation and recent sexual behaviors when addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of sexual minority women.

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Lesbian women were less likely to report receiving a birth control prescription or birth control counseling compared with heterosexual women. This is according to a new study that used data from the National Survey of Family Growth 2006-2015 in the US, and which highlighted sexual and reproductive health care disparities among women.

In “Do Sexual Minorities Receive Appropriate Sexual and Reproductive Health Care and Counseling?”, Bethany Everett, PhD, University of Utah (Salt Lake City) and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin (Madison) and the University of Chicago (IL) investigated sexual orientation disparities in the use of sexual and reproductive health services and receipt of contraceptive counseling in clinical settings in the past 12 months.

The researchers also explored whether having male sex partners influenced sexual minority women’s use of sexual and reproductive health services and the types of sexual health information that they received.

The findings – published in Journal of Women’s Health, a peer-reviewed publication from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. –  noted that in a clinical setting, lesbian women were less likely to report receiving birth control counseling at a pregnancy test, and lesbian women without recent male sex partners were less likely to report receiving counseling about condom use at an STI-related visit compared with heterosexual women.

However, they were more likely to report having received sexually transmitted infection (STI) counseling, testing, or treatment, after adjusting for sexual partners in the past 12 months.

“This new research emphasizes the importance of considering both sexual orientation and recent sexual behaviors when addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of sexual minority women,” said Susan G. Kornstein, MD, editor in chief of Journal of Women’s Health and executive director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women’s Health, Richmond, VA. “Using inclusive sexual and reproductive health counseling scripts may facilitate the delivery of appropriate sexual health-related information.”

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Trauma increases heart disease risk in lesbians, bi women

Women were 30% more likely to suffer from anxiety if they experienced any forms of adulthood trauma and 41% more likely to be depressed if they faced childhood trauma.

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Trauma, including abuse and neglect, is associated with higher cardiovascular disease risk for lesbian and bi women.

This is according to preliminary research presented in Chicago in the US, at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2018, a global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians. The research – led by researchers from the Columbia University – showed that sexual minority women with increased severity of childhood, adulthood or lifetime trauma had higher risk for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a perception of less social support.

For this, the researchers studied 547 sexual minority women. They measured three forms of childhood trauma: physical abuse, sexual abuse and parental neglect; three forms of adult trauma: physical abuse, sexual abuse and intimate partner violence; and lifetime trauma, which was the sum of childhood and adulthood trauma. They analyzed how increasing trauma severity was associated with higher report of several cardiovascular risk factors.

They found that women were 30% more likely to suffer from anxiety if they experienced any forms of adulthood trauma and 41% more likely to be depressed if they faced childhood trauma.

Other findings included:

  • 22% more likely to be depressed if they had experienced more forms of lifetime trauma.
  • 44% more likely to report overeating in the past three months if they experienced increased forms of childhood trauma.
  • 58% more likely to have diabetes if they experienced increasing severity of childhood trauma, and lifetime trauma notably increased their risks of obesity and high blood pressure.
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These findings suggest healthcare providers should screen for trauma as a cardiovascular disease risk factor in this population, according to the researchers.

The results were presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Chicago.

The research was recognized as the “Cardiovascular Stroke Nursing Best Abstract Award.”

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Health & Wellness

Attitudes toward sexual minorities, HIV-positive people among physicians are changing

Research finds that there have been substantive declines over a 35-year period in the prevalence of stigmatizing attitudes toward sexual minorities and HIV-positive people among physician respondents.

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Medical practitioners are among the sources of LGBT- and HIV-related discrimination; but this may be changing… even if slowly.

This is according to “Physician Attitudes Toward Homosexuality and HIV: The PATHH-III Survey“, a study by R. Marlin, A. Kadakia, B. Ethridge and W.C. Mathews, and published in LGBT Health.

The study eyed to (1) to evaluate current physician attitudes toward homosexuality and homosexual, transgender, and HIV-positive individuals; and (2) to compare current attitudes of those from prior surveys of the same population, the San Diego County medical community.

For this study, an online survey was conducted during November-December 2017 to assess general attitudes toward homosexuality and medically focused items that addressed homosexual orientation, transgender identity, and HIV. Responses were weighted for nonresponse. Predictors of stigma were assessed using generalized linear models. Trends across three surveys of the same population in 1982, 1999, and 2017 using common items were assessed using unweighted responses.

Of 4,418 physicians, 491 (11.1%) responded (median age 55 years, 38% female and 8.7% gay or bisexual). Regarding admission to medical school, 1% opposed admitting a homosexual applicant, 2% a transgender applicant, and 5% an HIV-positive applicant. Regarding consultative referral to a pediatrician, 3% would discontinue referral to a homosexual pediatrician, 5% to a transgender pediatrician, and 10% to an HIV-positive pediatrician. Regarding discomfort treating patients, 7% reported discomfort treating homosexual patients, 22% transgender patients, and 13% HIV-positive patients. Earlier year of graduation from medical school, male gender, and heterosexual orientation were significant predictors of stigma-associated responses.

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Compared with the results from surveys in 1982 and 1999, the current results suggest substantively less stigma associated with homosexuality and HIV.

Even with health insurance, lesbian, gay and bi adults more likely to delay medical care

For the researchers, it is worth noting that – finally – “there have been substantive declines over a 35-year period in the prevalence of stigmatizing attitudes toward sexual minorities and HIV-positive people among physician respondents.”

There’s hope yet, after all.

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Health & Wellness

Family acceptance of LGBT identity linked to lower stress

According to the researchers, the family provides a foundation of support, and if those who identify as LGBT are comfortable disclosing to their family, they seem to have a protective stress profile.

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Those who identify as LGBT and have come out to their family carry less stress hormones than those who have not come out, which may ultimately benefit their health. This is according to a study by Ohio University Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Peggy Zoccola with Andrew Manigault M.S., published in the October issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, journal of the Psychosomatic Society.

The study eyed to discuss how feeling able to comfortably talk about your sexual identity with family members specifically, appears to be most linked to output of the stress hormone cortisol; a hormone that if too much is produced can damage an individual’s health.

For the study, Zoccola had 121 sexual minority adults ages 18 to 35 take a survey about their depression and anxiety levels, sociodemographic factors and how much support they felt. They were also asked how out they were to family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers and clergy in religious organizations, as well as provided their age when they came out. Following the survey, 58 individuals from the group were randomly selected to provide a saliva sample to show their cortisol levels.

The results of Zoccola’s research showed that the more open people were to disclosing their sexuality with their family, the lower cortisol levels they had.

“The real stress punch seems to be with the family,” said Zoccola when referencing how greater disclosure of a LGBT individual’s sexuality to their family is strongly linked to lower cortisol.  “For these emerging adults, the family provides a foundation of support… If they’re comfortable disclosing to their family, they seem to have a protective stress profile.”

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Zoccola said that there has been sparse research on how the aspects of coming out by LGBT adults affect the release of stress hormones; but earlier studies have shown that if people who identify as sexual minorities feel acceptance from their families, they have higher self-esteem, lower depression and substance use rates and are less likely to think about suicide.

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Health & Wellness

Trans youth lack access to trans-affirming care, which may put them at risk for HIV

One-quarter of youth were less inclined to discuss GSM (gender and sexual minority) identity and sexual health with their primary care providers due to concern that their provider would disclose this information to parents.

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Many trans youth lack access to trans affirming care, which may put them at risk for HIV. This is according to a study that explored trans youth’s perceptions regarding encounters with primary care providers (PCPs) related to gender and sexual minority (GSM) identity and sexual health.

In “Perceived Barriers to HIV Prevention Services for Transgender Youth”, which appeared in LGBT Health, C.B. Fisher, A.L. Fried, M. Desmond, K. Macapagal and B. Mustanski engaged youth aged 14-21 (N = 228; 45% trans masculine, 41% trans feminine, 14% gender nonbinary) and asked them to complete a survey on GSM identity disclosure and acceptance, gender-affirming services, sexual health attitudes and behaviors, and interactions with PCPs involving GSM identity and concerns about stigma and confidentiality.

A factor analysis yielded three scales: GSM Stigma, Confidentiality Concerns, and GSM-Sexual Health Information. Items from the GSM Stigma scale showed that nearly half of respondents had not disclosed their GSM identity to their PCP due to concern about an unaccepting PCP. One-quarter of youth were less inclined to discuss GSM identity and sexual health with their PCP due to concern that their provider would disclose this information to parents; these concerns were greater among adolescents <18 and those not out to parents about their gender identity. Only 25% felt their PCP was helpful about GSM-specific sexual health issues. Youth who were out to parents about their gender identity and had received gender-affirming hormone therapy were more likely to report receiving GSM-specific sexual health information.

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For the researchers, “trans youth may not discuss their GSM identity or sexual health with PCPs because they anticipate GSM stigma and fear being ‘outed’ to parents.” And so “PCPs should receive transgender-inclusive training to adequately address youths’ sexual health needs and privacy concerns.”

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Even with health insurance, lesbian, gay and bi adults more likely to delay medical care

A study shows bisexuals have among the greatest need for regular health care, but are the least likely to get it. And even if they have a high-quality insurance plan through an employer, health equity is far from a reality for many LGBTQ patients.

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Even when lesbian, gay and bisexual adults have rates of health insurance coverage on par with or better than that of straight men and women, they are still more likely to wait to see the doctor when they need medical care. This is according to a policy brief by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research

According to Susan H. Babey, a co-author of the study, Disparities in Health Care Access and Health Among lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals in California, one reason cited in other research is that sexual minorities sometimes experience discrimination when they seek health care.

“Sexual minorities who have had a bad experience with a medical provider because of their sexual orientation may try to avoid repeating it,” said Babey, who is also co-director of the Chronic Disease Program at the Center.

The UCLA study looks at differences in access to care, behaviors that negatively affect health (such as smoking or not exercising) and health problems that can result from those behaviors (such as developing hypertension or being overweight), based on people’s sexual orientation. The findings show that 24% of bi men and 22% of straight men say they do not have a doctor they regularly see, compared with only 13% of gay men; but 20% of gay men and 21% of bi men delayed seeking health care in the past year, compared with 13% of straight men.

Thirteen percent of straight women and 15% of lesbians reported that they do not have a doctor they regularly see, while a higher percentage of bisexual women, 22%, said they do not have one. However, 29% of lesbians and bisexual women said they delayed seeking medical care in the past year compared with just 18% of straight women.

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The study uses data from the combined 2011 to 2014 California Health Interview Survey. Data on transgender people is not included because the survey only began collecting transgender data in 2015-16. More than one million California adults, 4.5% of the state’s adult population, identify as lesbian, gay, homosexual or bi, according to the survey.

Other key findings from the research:

  • Bi people have the worst overall access to a doctor they see on a regular basis and high rates of unhealthy behaviors. Among lesbian/gay, bi and straight adults, bi men and women are the least likely to have a regular source of care, are most likely to delay care and are mostly likely to seek care in an emergency room. Bi men have higher rates of unhealthy behaviors in four of the five categories analyzed in the study. Among women, bi in the study have higher rates of smoking and binge drinking, and are more likely to eat fast food two or more times a week.
  • Gay men report better overall health and fewer behaviors that lead to obesity and hypertension than straight men. Sixty-one percent of gay men said they considered themselves to be in excellent or very good health, compared to 52% of straight men and 44% of bi men. Gay men are less likely to drink sugary beverages daily and were less likely to binge drink than straight and bi men. Twenty-seven percent of straight men in the study were obese, compared with 21% of gay men and 20% of bi men.
  • Straight women have the best access to a doctor they see on a regular basis, overall health and the lowest rates of unhealthy behaviors. Half of straight women said they were in excellent or very good health, versus 44% of lesbians and 45% of bi women. Twenty-seven percent said they had engaged in binge drinking within the previous year, compared to 50% of bi women. Ten percent of straight women were smokers, compared with 23% of bi and lesbian women. Lesbians had the highest rate of obesity, 35%, compared with 26% of  bi women and 24% of straight women.
READ:  Gay, lesbian and bisexual adults at higher risk of heart disease – study

“Our study shows bisexuals have among the greatest need for regular health care, but are the least likely to get it,” said Joelle Wolstein, a research scientist at the Center and the study’s lead author. “Even if they have a high-quality insurance plan through an employer, health equity is far from a reality for many LGBTQ patients.”

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