John M. Becker

Incoming World Psychiatric Association Head Comes Out as Gay

Filed By John M. Becker | December 20, 2013 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living
Tags: Dinesh Bhugra, electroshock therapy, India, milestones, psychiatry, UK, World Psychiatric Association

dinesh-bhugra.jpgDr. Dinesh Bhugra, the president-elect of the World Psychiatric Association, recently came out publicly as a gay man for the first time and intends to make the mental health of gays and lesbians a priority during his tenure, the Guardian reports:

"There are still countries where it's seen as an illness," he says. "We need to make a stand." He is still deciding how best to do that. In Britain, gay people are at greater risk of a range of mental health problems, and, it is believed, are more likely to take their own lives. But the law needs to be changed, Bhugra argues, to force coroners to record the sexual orientation of suicides.

Does he believe psychiatry should apologise for the harm inflicted on gay people? "There is no doubt psychiatry hasn't covered itself in glory. I think we ought to be apologising for all of the areas, not just one bit - like the treatment of women," he says.

Dr. Bhugra, 61, is the chair of psychiatry and diversity at King's College in London. He's been with his partner Mike for more than 30 years. Growing up in a small city in northern India (which just recriminalized homosexuality, by the way), Bhugra knew he was different long before he knew that that difference had a name. It was when he came to the UK to study psychiatry that he realized he was gay. Mike helped him come out to friends and family.

He will be the World Psychiatric Association's first gay president. As reporter Patrick Strudwick notes, Bhugra's appointment is a milestone for a profession which for decades condoned abusive attempts to "cure" homosexuality, including electroshock therapy and chemical castration. His term begins next year.

The World Psychiatric Association counts approximately 200,000 members across the globe.

h/t: the New Civil Rights Movement.

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