Canberra’s leading LGBTIQ+ bodies are calling on funding for professional health organisations, following recent research finding mental health within the community was in crisis.
Meridian and A Gender Agenda are responding to La Trobe University research, which found 57.2% of LGBTIQ+ people were experiencing high levels of psychological stress with 41.9% having thoughts of suicide in the past year.
Meridian CEO Philippa Moss said many factors were contributing to distress within the LGBTIQ+ community, including disadvantage, stigma and barriers in mainstream health services.
“The LGBTIQ+ community needs to know suicide is preventable and recovery from mental health crisis is possible. Support exists, but the problem is overwhelming the limited LGBTIQ+ services available and more investment is urgently needed,” she said.
“There is remarkable strength and resilience across the LGBTIQ+ community in the face of this crisis. Professional LGBTIQ+ health organisations already have the tools to address mental health and promote community resilience, but they need proper public funding.”
The Private Lives 3 (PL3) study is the third instalment of the largest LGBTIQ+ study to date, with the first two iterations conducted in 2005 (PL1) and then again in 2011 (PL2).
The most recent study surveyed 6,835 participants, 71% of whom resided in a capital city.
The study found only three in 10 (31.2%) rated their health as very good or excellent in PL1, compared to over half (51.5%) of participants in PL2.
The two organisations are calling on culturally safe counselling and mental health services, short-term and early intervention services without referral, peer-support and psychosocial support and training for mainstream providers.
“The answer to mental health distress and suicide in the LGBTIQ+ community will be found within the community,” Ms Moss said.
“The community has a track record of tackling serious health challenges such as HIV. We know how to educate and mobilise our people, but we need the government to recognise this crisis is distinct to the LGBTIQ+ community and scale up our clinical services and support to the community.”
The research found the majority of the LGBTIQ+ community do not feel comfortable with many mainstream health providers.
“Someone’s sexuality or gender identity should not be a barrier to accessing mental health support,” A Gender Agenda executive director Sel Cooper said.
“Feeling understood and accepted is key to mental health recovery, but La Trobe’s research shows the majority of LGBTIQ+ people do not feel accepted when accessing health services.
“A professional mental health response led by the LGBTIQ+ community means people will find support from their peers, who have insights into their experience.”