Influencer for social change and an LGBTQ+ Mental Health Advocate

You describe yourself as an influencer for social change and an LGBTQ+ Mental Health Advocate. What do these roles involve?
As an influencer for social change and an LGBTQ+ mental health advocate, in both my professional and personal life, I attempt to give those without a voice a voice, by voicing up my truth to get what is right for me and the collective without fear and being the best version of myself. In May 2022, I was commended by the Metropolitan Police and called a hero by two fellow males from the LGBTQ+ community for the actions, I displayed on a north London street in dealing with a situation where a young gentleman acted in a violent and discriminatory manner towards me and two other gentlemen from my community concerning our sexual orientations. To me, there is no room in one of the best cities in Europe for discriminatory behaviour concerning race, gender, sexual orientation, mental health status, or misogyny, and we all have a responsibility to call it out, challenge it, and look at our own unconscious biases and challenge them.

In terms of rights the LGBTQ+ community has made political and social progress over the past decades, at least in the UK. What more remains to be done, and how does one go about effecting that social change?

I am pleased to say the LGBTQ+ community has made massive strides both on a political and social front since homosexuality was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973. Aligning myself with Pride London, I think we all have a responsibility to effect social change for the benefit of the collective. I would like to get involved in lobbying for a parity of esteem to be achieved, in terms of legislation for those who commit biphobic, homophobic, and transphobic hate crimes to be treated as severely as offenders who commit racially or religiously aggravated hate crimes, as these types of crimes are surrounded by stronger legislation, to do this a multi-pronged approach is required and collaboration needs to be had between influencers like myself and organisations such as GALOP, Pride London, Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline (London), and LGBT Foundation.

Are there any specific mental health conditions which the LGBTQ+ community may experience, compared to the heterosexual community and how should those conditions be addressed?

Even today, research suggests the LGBTQ+ community still faces a significant number of struggles. They are twice as likely to have a mental disorder (anxiety, depression, psychosis & substance abuse) compared to their heterosexual and cisnormative counterparts. When we look at suicidality, for example, LGBTQ+ Youth are five times more likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual and cisnormative individuals of a similar age. 40% of transgender people have reported attempted Suicide at some point in their life, this is 1 in 2 people, 9 to 10 times higher for the average of the Population. (ALDAO, 2019)

In addressing these issues, I feel a multi-faceted approach is required, I am a firm believer in the notion of ‘Symptom as Symbol’, looking at this from a transpersonal perspective, therefore if we can carry on working on destigmatising the views which exist around someone being on the LGBTQ+ spectrum this will empower people to embrace their truth, where some still may be in fear of living this. Collaboration between like minds is required around the subject, and I think LGBTQ+ trailblazing organisations like the who have put initiatives put in place, such as the LBGBTQ+ Champions, the creation of an Annual LGBTQ+ Conference, along with the introduction of using Pronouns on name badges so they have their preferred Pronoun on their name badge, for instance, someone may wish to be identified as a ‘They’ rather than a ‘He or She’ are leading the way in doing this!

On either a professional or a personal level what do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

As I am one who sometimes goes out of the parameters for the benefit of myself and others, I would like to provide you with both my greatest achievement on a professional and personal level. My greatest professional achievement must be in the last six months of reading my MSc Psychology at Nottingham Trent University between September 2018 – September 2019, I consistently produced Academic work to a high standard, working to stringent time-imposed deadlines, in response to mitigating circumstances beyond my control as a postgraduate mature student. On a personal level, I would say consistently lobbying and achieving a “parity of esteem between mental health & physical health” in line with the Health and Social Care Act of 2012 which was endorsed by the then suicide minister for our country Ms Jackie Doyle – Price MP in January 2018.

What’s next for Ross Matthew Gates?

Well as Delboy use to say to Rodney in the BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses, “The World is your Oyster Rodney!” Joking aside I am actually in between job roles now and taking some time out to think about what I want to do, I do know one thing though, whatever my next move is on the career front, it will involve on some level, ‘Living and Breathing Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in the workplace’, as that is my modus operandi.