The Jewish Community Council of Victoria has called for awareness of GLBT mental health issues.
JCCV executive director Geoffrey Zygier released a statement in time for the Jewish festival of Simchat Torah calling for discussion and reflection within the Jewish community for those facing difficulties, including those vilified for their sexual orientation.
“To live in poverty or with mental illness is to live with uncertainty, indignity and harassment… same-sex attracted people are up to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide that their heterosexual peers,” Zygier said.
“We must encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems, including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments that can make a long-term and lasting difference.”
The comments coincided with Mental Health Week, held from October 4-10, and followed an earlier JCCV statement calling on the community to avoid excessive alcohol consumption during the festival period.
Debate on levels of acceptance of homosexuality in the Melbourne Jewish community was sparked recently after gay Jewish support group Aleph said the JCCV lacked leadership in addressing GLBT issues.
Alpeh convenor Michael Barnett has mooted plans for a national Jewish GLBTI advocacy body and told Southern Star he welcomed the JCCV’s statement as a positive sign attitudes were slowly changing, but work still needs to be done.
“The JCCV has said it is not going to stand for vilification on the grounds of sexual orientation and this is a good first step,” he said. “What I’d like to see is a bigger picture approach and a more proactive response on a policy level within the Council, whether it be for any marginalised group in the community, rather than there just being ad hoc or kneejerk responses.”
Barnett said plans for a national body are still at the “concept stage”. If established, the group would be linked to resources from health experts and academics.

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