By Miki Perkins
The chair of the royal commission into the state’s #mentalhealth system has described as “totally unacceptable” the very high rate of #suicide for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Victorians.
#LGBTI people have the highest rate of suicidality – which includes suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts – among any population in Australia, but the number of deaths is likely to be even greater because data on sexuality or gender identity is not consistently captured, the commission heard on Wednesday.
Chairperson Penny Armytage told the commission that she was challenged by the #suicide rate for members of this community and “trying to think how we respond better … that’s totally unacceptable and it’s part of our terms of reference around #suicideprevention”.
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
Current figures show that LGBTI young people between the ages of 16 and 27 are five times more likely to attempt #suicide, transgender people over 18 are nearly 11 times more likely and people with an intersex variation over 16 are nearly six times more likely.
Gender and sexuality commissioner Ro Allen told the hearing that #suicide in the #LGBTI community was often hidden, and not consistently collected in police or coronial data.
“We have very, very bad data collection around this,” Commissioner Allen said. “I remember going to funerals of young #LGBTI people and families didn’t know they were queer; it certainly wasn’t recorded.”
Commissioner Allen said it was not a person’s gender identity, sexuality or intersex identification that was the cause of #mentalhealthillness, but the compounded discrimination they faced in everyday life.
Allen described “minority stress”; the experience of anticipating harassment or assault in everyday situations, and the lasting effect it has on #mentalhealth.
“We don’t wake up in the cot hating ourselves, it comes from somewhere,” they said. “[It comes] from #stigma about how we are labelled and identified, whether it’s through the media or through the recent postal survey which was a tsunami of attacks on our #mentalhealth.”
Suicide rates in the transgender and gender diverse community are higher than in any other group, the commission was told.
Dr Michelle Telfer, the Director of the Royal Children’s Hospital’s gender service said young transgender people faced two periods of highest #suiciderisk: when they come out, and the period between seeking medical care and actually being able to access it.
“In terms of social acceptance of trans identities, we’re still quite a long way behind the acceptance of the #lesbian, #gay and #bisexual communities,” Dr Telfer said.
When the service was originally established at the Royal Children’s Hospital, staff were concerned about the length of time patients were having to wait for access, and the hospital secured state government assistance.
The four-year funding agreement has just expired, but Dr Telfer said she was hopeful to get further funding. Patients are still triaged rapidly, but do have to wait to see a clinician.
The commission also heard there is a severe lack of expert #LGBTI clinicians and counsellors in Victorian rural and outer suburban settings.
Dr Ruth McNair, a GP at Northside Clinic, said she had patients come to the specialist clinic in North Fitzroy from more than 100 kilometres away because they didn’t have local services that understood their needs.
For help or information visit beyondblue.org.au, call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251, or Lifeline on 131 114.