“The infinite despair that inhabited my whole body and soul. I never thought I would have a better day”.
The quotes in the image are responses to open questions asked of participants in 2007 and 2011 on depression. Since participation was on an anonymous basis, the first names used are fictitious.
At the end of 2001, Dialogai set up a mental health service to respond to those in psychological distress. This service was an immediate success and had more than 200 consultations in the first 6 months of 2002. Conceived of as an emergency psychological intervention and place for guidance rather than an on-going service, it was immediately suspended for financial reasons since its structure prevented consultations from being billed to health insurance companies.
The Blues-Out project was developed as the first stage in a concerted response to the poor mental health of gay men as revealed in the baseline study. Since foreign studies showed that the mental health of lesbian women was also worse than in heterosexual women, the project was done in tandem with Lestime, a lesbian association in Geneva.
The choice was made to launch a project on depression given how prevalent it was in the gay community and the risks that untreated depression entailed when it goes untreateds, namely future episodes of depression and suicide risks.
Different projects carried out abroad such as “Beyondblue” in Australia and “Breathing Space” in Scotland were analyzed in order to find best practices. Finally, we decided to adapt the project done by the European Alliance Against Depression. The advantage of this community intervention was two-fold. Firstly, it proved to be effective in bringing down suicide. And secondly, since it was being carried out simultaneously in multiple Swiss cantons with support from the Federal Public Health Office (OFSP, in French), this allowed the tools to be used at a lower cost.
Blues-out, the first mental health intervention project for the gay community, was launched in 2008. A website and a pamphlet with key messages on depression, a self-diagnostic tool and information about primary health physicians and gay-friendly health services were created. Those wanting psychotherapy were also sent to the association Trajectoires.
When the project was launched, a hot-line staffed by trained volunteers who worked 4 hours a week and a template with questions and answers were also offered. These two tools were discontinued after a year due to a lack of usage.
The project was popularized throughout the Geneva LGBT scene through multiple actions such as the Blues-out-mathon which was thought of by Rocco Senatore, a social worker and community organizer, as well as communication work (posters, brochures, cards, advertisements in LGBT newspapers and banners on Internet and community sites). A new communication campaign around the causes and symptoms of depression was launched in 2010.
The impact of Blues-out was assessed by Institute for Social and Preventative Medicine at the University of Zurich by comparing findings from the pre-intervention survey in 2007 and a post-intervention survey in 2011. The project reached its projected targets. This shows that community mental health promotion projects can have a positive impact. Nevertheless, seeing as how serious mental health disorders are among gay men and lesbians, the problem is far from being resolved and other interventions should be launched to improve mental health in the long-term.
|Blues-out Targets||Assessment findings (pre-intervention vs. post-intervention)|
|30% of the target population reached by the campaign||
|Reduction in the number of non-detected, non-treated cases of depression||
|Improved knowledge on symptoms and treatments for depression||
|Drop in suicidality||