- Written by Annemi Olivier
- Published: 12 Oct 2017
Detrimental Mental Health Impacts of the Marriage Equality Debate
Around 1-2% of people in our communities identify as lesbian or gay, and a similar percentage identify as bisexual. A much higher percentage (6-13%) have had a same sex experience in their lifetime, but may not identify as LGBTIQ.
LGBTIQ traditionally stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer or questioning. LGBTIQ experiences and identities are not mental illness. However, LGBTIQ people are at an increased risk of depression, anxiety, substance use problems, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, and non-suicidal self-injury. LGBTIQ experiences do not, in themselves, cause mental health problems, rather they may be associated with specific stressors. There are a number of risk factors, which may include:
- Being in a minority group
- Discrimination, prejudice and abuse
- Actual or anticipated insensitive treatment or violence
- Intersex people receiving ‘corrective’ surgery they did not consent to, often in infancy.
However, not all people experience distress about their LGBTIQ experience. Do not assume that LGBTIQ experiences are related to any mental health problems a person may have or distress they are experiencing.
The National Mental Health Commission has expressed concerns about the detrimental mental health impacts of the marriage equality debate. The Commission’s Co-Chair, Professor Allan Fels said the debate has heightened discrimination against LGBTIQ people.
The Commission is alarmed about the potential negative health impacts these debates are having on individuals, couples and families who face scrutiny and judgement. The mistruths being expressed around marriage equality are leading people to feel depressed and anxious. This is despite proof that international studies show marriage equality has positive effects, improving the health outcomes, mental and psychological, for LGBTIQ people.
For example, same sex marriage policies are associated with a reduction in the proportion of high school students reporting suicide attempts, according to research in America. Another myth opponents of same-sex marriage claim, is that children from same-sex parent families experience poorer health and social outcomes – research contradicts this. Research confirms that children raised in same-sex parented families do as well emotionally, socially and educationally as their peers from heterosexual families.
It is everyone’s responsibility to treat people with respect and care during this sensitive time. The National Mental Health Commission maintains that the mental health and wellbeing of the LGBTIQ people should be at the heart of any debate about marriage equality.
Tina Winchester1300 943 438 firstname.lastname@example.org
Source:Australian Government National Mental Health Commission Mental Health First Aid Manual 4th Edition