THE importance of speaking up and sharing personal stories and experiences around mental health is a primary goal of QLife, Australia’s first national LGBTI peer-led counselling and referral program.
So much so, they have launched the QLives campaign, calling for submissions from around Australia about personal accounts regarding mental health. QLives aims to collect a range of LGBTI people’s stories of living with, or having lived through, struggles with poor mental health, and sharing what sorts of strategies and support can help in times of trouble. QLife says that people looking for such stories and educating themselves about other people’s experiences is often the first step people take towards improving their own mental health.
According to the organisation, the campaign also comes with the goals of increasing national dialogue on the matter and to address the disproportionate rates of mental issues within the LGBTI community when compared to wider society.
QLife say that by doing this, they are also tackling the difficulty faced by many people to even speak out about what they live with daily— something that they believe lays at the heart of the issue.
“What is vitally needed is an increase in mental health literacy amongst LGBTI people,” QLife’s clinical director Ross Jacobs said.
“Understanding mental health, how to address the challenges that people face and how to build on the strengths that people possess, can only help to improve the wellbeing of LGBTI Australians.
“Sharing stories can be one way of raising awareness, helping people to understand that they are not alone, and that support is available.”
A collaboration between the National LGBTI Health Alliance, five state-based volunteer services and the Australian Department of Health, QLife links telephone LGBTI counselling services from around the country through a national network that also offers online opportunities for those in need of a talk or resources. Increasingly popular, especially with young people, is the opportunity to speak with a counsellor via webchat. This kind of engagement in particular has led QLife to an understanding of how people are using the internet to promote their own mental health, through either reaching out or accessing resources.
In addition, QLife works with mainstream health providers to educate them on the specific needs that addressing LGBTI mental health requires and is about to launch a series of mental health “tip sheets” on a range of LGBTI-specific mental health issues, designed to help professionals who have contact with LGBTI clients to better understand their individual needs.
“It is vital that mainstream service providers are able to access training to increase the capacity of the workforce for supporting LGBTI people,” QLife advisory group member Damien Riggs said.
“While specialist service providers will always be necessary, they are increasingly unable to keep up with demand. LGBTI people have the right to competent, respectful and supportive service provision in all areas.”
Riggs, who is part of an expert committee that advises QLife on clinical resource content, said that making sure that attention was paid to all sectors within the LGBTI community is fundamental to benefitting the whole. It’s not uncommon that practitioners have some information about lesbian or gay people, but rarely know enough about working with trans*, intersex or bisexual clients.
“As we increasingly move towards inclusive approaches to service provision for LGBTI Australians, it is important that we continue to develop our understanding of the causes of poor mental health amongst certain sectors of LGBTI communities,” he said.
“Whilst many groups are doing well, others continue to experience rates of poor mental health significantly higher than the general population.
“Rather than viewing these disparities as inherent to these particular groups, we need to continue to identify and examine the social factors (such as discrimination, lack of access to services, lack of social support) that contribute to poor outcomes.”
According to Riggs, broadening the scope of more mainstream health providers and fine-tuning their skills in order to address LGBTI mental health is a right that those in the community deserve.
“Whilst specialist service providers will always be necessary, they are increasingly unable to keep up with demand,” he said.
“LGBTI people have the right to competent, respectful and supportive service provision in all areas.”
Do you have a personal story you’d like to share? Visit qlife.org.au/add-your-story to find out how you can help.