One of the the things that has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds during the never-ending debate about marriage equality in Australia has been the safety of the young and vulnerable in the LGBTQI community.
This is a community that, according to Beyond Blue, already has mental health among the poorest in Australia. Same-sex attracted Australians are up to 14 times likelier to attempt suicide. Young same-sex attracted Australians are six times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers.
These already vulnerable groups being exposed to the damaging rhetoric, homophobic abuse, and constant debate about their humanity can have very real consequences on their mental health and lives. That is why we have been worried.
In the last month or so, there has seemingly even been an increase in the amount of adult, happy, well-adjusted queer people in this country who have seen their mental health suffer because of this debate. I am one of them, and I am someone who has never had mental health concerns, and who has an incredible support network of family and friends, and access to a loving community.
I am one of the people best prepared to take on this battle, and even I have found it wearing me down. This adds an extra layer of concern, as we worry about all the young and vulnerable kids out there seeing and hearing the same things, but without as much support.
That’s why networks like Victoria‘s LGBTQI telephone and web counselling service, Switchboard, are so incredibly important. And it shows. Since the announcement of the marriage equality postal survey, Switchboard has seen a 25 per cent spike in the number of people phoning in for help.
Talking to the Star Observer, the general manager of the organisation, Jo Ball, says that this number is actually a conservative estimate.
People are definitely being driven to call because of the survey, we’re hearing a lot of distress and confusion. We’ve also had a lot of volunteers come back to help because of the survey, and we’ve run another training course for new ones. All trends show that the number of people calling in will only increase over the next couple of months.
The group offers anonymous conversations for both LBGTQI people, and allies, and Ball says that the trained volunteers on the other end offer a judgement-free space to discuss absolutely any issue a caller might be experiencing.
You don’t need a reason to call. And I think there’s a lot of importance in the fact that when people call our lines they know the person on the other end has an idea about what they’re going through, and can affirm their experience.
Switchboard is available to call between the hours of 3PM and Midnight, and you can dial in at 1800 184 527, or visit their website to chat here.Star Observer
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