THE National LGBTI Health Alliance has recently launched a campaign aimed at fostering a community conversation and giving gay men the confidence, knowledge and skills to become “lifeguards” in their social networks to support themselves, partners and friends.

Called The Lifeguard Project, the alliance will work with beyondblue and the Movember Foundation in an effort to tackle the disproportionate rates of depression, anxiety and suicide within the gay community.

To recognise the diversity of gay identities and communities, the team behind the campaign will be working closely with gay communities to develop an interactive online toolkit containing practical strategies, advice and actions.

The $410,000 project is funded by beyondblue with donations from the Movember Foundation and is expected to be trialled in 2015.

Research shows that gay men often see their friends struggling with anxiety and depression but lack the confidence or skills to reach out to them to help.

Sydney resident Jason is one of many who experienced this.

“I saw him struggle with his anxiety and watched helplessly as the depression gradually took hold of him and dragged him down,” the 43-year-old said.

“I wanted to help, but didn’t know how. I feared if I spoke about it directly, I would just make it more real for him and make it worse.

“Having somewhere I could go to learn how to help would have given me the confidence knowing when and how to better support my mate.”

National LGBTI Health Alliance executive director Rebecca Reynolds said: “This project will provide a whole new level of support to gay male identified individuals and communities by encouraging them to be confident to know how and when to help their mates experiencing anxiety and depression and how and when to encourage their mates to seek help and support.”

The chief executive of beyondblue, Georgie Harman, echoed her sentiments.

“Lifeguard will be an important new tool that is specifically made with and speaks to gay men,” she said.

“It will help build a national community of action takers as it builds gay men’s understanding of anxiety and depression.

“We hope it will make lives better and even save lives.”

Meanwhile, Movember Foundation’s Asia-Pacific director Jeremy Macvean said; “Research shows that gay men experience significantly higher levels of psychological distress than the general population. This project will help address that and in turn reduce male suicide.”

Need help? Visit www.beyondblue.org.au/pride or call 1300 22 4636. You can also speak to a peer community counsellor through the QLife Project on 1800 184 527 or at www.qlife.org.au

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