Beyondblue CEO Dawn O’Neil has distanced the national depression initiative from comments made by its chair Jeff Kennett that he believes heterosexual marriages are better for the mental health of children.

In a veiled attack on same-sex marriage in his Herald Sun column last week, Kennett used his leadership of national depression initiative beyondblue to back up his claims.

“There is no substitute for parents of both genders,” Kennett wrote.

“Happy heterosexual marriages are the best environment for the mental health of children.”

O’Neil said the views expressed were Kennett’s alone and don’t reflect the views of the organisation.

“They are absolutely the views of Jeff Kennett and I can give you a strong assurance that beyondblue continues to be solidly committed to working with the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and intersex community, particularly to address the high rates of depression and anxiety as a result of discrimination,” O’Neil told the Star Observer.

“The research shows gender isn’t an issue as far as mental health and wellbeing of children is concerned, it’s very much about the quality of the parenting that makes the difference.”

“We absolutely are committed to our work in this area, it’s very important, we understand the discrimination that people from the gay lesbian community experience is a causal factor often for depression and anxiety and we want to do all that we can to remove the discrimination as much as we can.

O’Neil said she would not comment on calls to have Kennett stood down over the remarks.

‘It’s a decision for him and the board not me,” she said.

“I understand some people are not happy with his comments and I would encourage people to contact him and talk to him about that.”

The timing of Kennett’s remarks have placed beyondblue in an awkward position as the organisation has begun to work on GLBTI mental health projects after receiving heavy criticism in the past for inaction.

The organisation has started to call for participants to register to take part in a new online community research forum on depression and anxiety among LGBTI people.

O’Neil said she hoped Kennett’s remarks won’t stop the community from taking part.

“I hope it doesn’t dissuade people and really encourage them to see Jeff has his own views,” she said.

“Beyondblue is clearly committed and want people with a lived experience of discrimination to tell us their stories so we can make sure, when we do roll out these campaigns, it really does reflect the voice of those who have that experience and hopefully as a result of that, we do see a reduction of discrimination.”

INFO: For a link to the research project click HERE

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