CEO Update - You can't debate facts: mental health and marriage equality

Lachlan Searle

A former Prime Minister assaulted, discarded postal votes found on suburban streets, disgruntled employers and employees voicing opinions on social media, chalk rainbows outside post boxes, planes leaving trails of ‘NO’ smoke behind them… and constant debate. Personal and divisive debate. That’s the discourse we are seeing as the nation answers one simple ‘Yes or No’ question via post.

Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?

It’s a discourse which is set to continue, and set to get worse as surveys begin to be counted. Set to get worse when emotions become more strained, and the real count, or toll of this process reveals itself.

Anecdotally we are hearing from our member organisations of a 20 to 30 percent spike in people seeking mental health services and support, as a result of the marriage equality postal survey. A spike they are seeing especially amongst young people who are more vulnerable and at a greater risk.

Factually, thanks to the National LGBTI Health Alliance, we know that LGBTIQ Australians experience triple the rate of depression and double the rate of anxiety when compared to their heterosexual counterparts.

We know that LGBTIQ Australians are also between 3.5 and 14 times more likely to attempt suicide, and that more than half of the LGBTIQ population have experienced verbal homophobic abuse.

This time last year, and again this year, Mental Health Australia made our position clear stating that no part of the population should be reliant on the outcome of a plebiscite to free them from discrimination.  This week, our own Chair, Ms Jennifer Westacott, joined other prominent Australians in discussing the impact of discrimination on her own life.

None the less it’s happening, and this week a coalition of five mental health organisations have banded together to ensure Australians are aware of the facts when it comes to the mental health impact on the young LGBITQ community.

Launching their national #mindthefacts campaign, the Black Dog Institute, headspace, ReachOut, Brain and Mind Centre at University of Sydney and Orygen, the National Centre for Excellence in Youth Mental Health, are 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.

#mindthefacts uses real facts and evidence to urge Australians to cast a ‘yes’ vote, drawing attention to the peer reviewed studies confirming the negative health impacts caused by discrimination against LGBTIQ people.

Facts that should be part of the marriage equality discourse. Facts that cannot be ignored if we are serious about tackling youth mental health and suicide prevention. And clear facts that cannot be debated. 

Warm regards

Frank Quinlan, CEO Mental Health Australia

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