Mental Health Groups Call for Same-Sex Marriage to Prevent Suicide
21 September 2017 at 4:24 pm
Distress among Australia’s LGBTIQ community over the postal-survey debate has put a strain on mental health organisations, who have launched a campaign to support same-sex marriage and prevent 3,000 youth suicide attempts every year.
ReachOut, Headspace, Orygen, the Black Dog Institute and Sydney University’s Brain and Mind Centre launched their #mindthefacts campaign on Thursday, “encouraging Australians to carefully consider the real and devastating links between youth suicide rates and discrimination against young LGBTIQ people when they cast their vote over the next six weeks”.
The youth mental health groups said 3,000 youth suicide attempts would be prevented if marriage equality becomes a reality, which they have based on a methodology combining Australian and overseas research.
“In the United States, implementation of same-sex marriage policies has been associated with a 7 per cent relative reduction in the proportion of high school students attempting suicide. The association was strongest among sexual minority students,” the coalition of mental health groups said.
“Based on figures from the Second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing this would equate to almost 3,000 fewer suicide attempts made by Australian secondary school students per year.”
Jono Nicholas, the CEO of ReachOut, told Pro Bono News that the postal-survey debate had caused a substantial increase of LGBTIQ Australians seeking mental health support.
“The organisations involved have certainly seen a spike in access to our services over the last month, connected to the public conversation around same-sex marriage. We’re also seeing in our services a high degree of distress among the LGBTIQ community,” Nicholas said.
“So what we’re calling on is for Australia to be very respectful in this conversation, to be mindful of the fact that this is a vulnerable group of young people and it’s likely to be a very painful few weeks while this occurs.
“But also to consider voting yes because the message this can send is an incredibly positive one for these young people in the long term. And if same-sex marriage becomes legalised, it will remove discrimination which can always improve someone’s mental health.”
Nicholas said the divisive debate around same-sex marriage was not only putting a strain on the LGBTIQ community, but also on mental health services themselves.
“We are seeing a spike in usage, [but] that’s what we’re there for, to support all Australians. We certainly encourage a young person, or someone concerned about a young person to [access these services],” he said.
“But it is a strain and we certainly recognise that it’s a difficult time for young people while this public conversation goes on.
“So if you are thinking that your vote doesn’t matter just consider voting yes and what that will mean for a young person going through a tough time right now.”
The postal-survey, which arose after the government failed to pass a compulsory-attendance plebiscite on the issue, has been met with vehement opposition by Labor and the Greens since it was announced.
Labor has previously voiced concerns about the mental health implications of the survey on the LGBTIQ community, with deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek telling reporters on Monday that this strain on mental health services was to be expected.
“There’s been a massive increase in the number of people contacting counselling services, including online and telephone counselling services. We know that Professor Allan Fels, in his role as the mental health commissioner, predicted months ago that this would come to pass,” Plibersek said.
“Mental health professionals have been warning the government that there is likely to be significant psychological harm to people in the community because of this $122 million waste of money postal survey. And now all of these predictions are in fact occurring.
“Beyond Blue have reported recently that they’ve had a 40 per cent increase in the number of people asking for help.”
Plibersek said it was vital the government provided extra support for these counselling services
“Bill Shorten wrote to the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, last week, begging for extra support for these counselling services because of the huge increase in volume of calls. The government hasn’t responded yet,” she said.
“This is now critical – people are missing out on the help they need right now because this government is refusing to put extra resources into helping with the huge increase in volumes of calls for assistance.”
The results of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey will be released on 15 November.
If you or someone you know is experiencing issues with mental health, please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Q Life 1800 184 527, or headspace on 1800 650 890.