Mr. Hobbes notes:
One of the most striking studies I found described the spike in anxiety and depression among gay men in 2004 and 2005, the years when 14 states passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. Gay men in those states showed a 37 percent increase in mood disorders, a 42 percent increase in alcoholism and a 248 percent increase in generalized anxiety disorder.
The most chilling thing about those numbers is that the legal rights of gay people living in those states didn’t materially change. We couldn’t get married in Michigan before the amendment passed, and we couldn’t get married in Michigan after it passed. The laws were symbolic. They were the majority’s way of informing gay people that we weren’t wanted.
Yes: symbols affect our health. This is something human beings have known since we started making symbols (which is probably when we started developing formal ideas of language), but hyper-rationalists have been denying it for a few centuries now. We forget it at our great peril. The arts can kill as well as heal.