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These groups have cautioned that the practices do not work and have warned patients that they may be harmful.
For example, the American Psychological Association “advises parents, guardians, young people, and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and to seek psychotherapy, social support, and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.” The American Psychiatric Association “opposes any psychiatric treatment such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation.” The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated: “Therapy directed at specifically changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.” The Pan American Health Organization, a regional office of the World Health Organization, has stated that these practices “lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.” No.
In fact, however, Murphy was gay in adulthood, and struggled with the severe psychological distress caused by Rekers’s “treatments” throughout his life.
Murphy attempted to take his own life when he was about 17, and died by suicide at the age of 38.
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Before 1973, many mental health organizations inaccurately considered same-sex attraction to be a mental illness.In 2009, the APA issued a report concluding that the reported risks of the practices include: depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidality, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized and untrue to self, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources. Minors who experience family rejection based on their sexual orientation or gender identity face especially serious health risks.Research shows that lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were more than eight times more likely to report having attempted suicide, more than five times more likely to report high levels of depression, more than three times more likely to use illegal drugs, and more than three times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.In one highly publicized case from the early 1970s, psychologist George Rekers treated a five-year-old boy named Kirk Murphy, who had exhibited stereotypically feminine behavior such as a preference for girls’ toys.Rekers instructed Murphy’s parents to reward him for exhibiting “masculine” behavior and to punish him (by ignoring or even spanking him) when he displayed “feminine” behavior.