Gay and lesbian youth have again been ignored by Australia’s peak depression organisation, beyondblue.
The organisation’s new, 127-page draft guidelines for youth depression, Clinical Practice Guidelines on Depression in Adolescents and Young Adults, contains a single reference to GLBTI youth, under ‘Groups with low levels of help-seeking’.
Beyondblue board member and adolescent psychiatrist, associate professor Brett McDermott — who headed an expert panel to develop the guidelines — said the lack of inclusion was due to an absence of “high quality” research.
“We’re very disappointed about this as well,” McDermott told Sydney Star Observer.
“The process was about trawling the scientific literature for very high quality studies, for randomised control trials, or trials of a similar degree of scientific rigour.
“We only found one [study] that specifically included that group … so we’ve tried to flag that, and we’ve tried to say there’s an urgent future research agenda, there are some very important groups … we need some research on.”
But according to beyondblue’s own fact sheet, Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows homosexual and bisexual people have far higher levels of anxiety disorders than their heterosexual counterparts (31 percent compared with 14 percent); and more than triple the rate of depression and related disorders (19 percent compared with 6 percent).
Critics of the draft guidelines say beyondblue is falling well short of its committment to target depression in the GLBTI community after public assurances following its GLBT mental health roundtable last December.
Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria director Anne Mitchell told Sydney Star Observer it was “ridiculous” that research GLHV compiled specifically for beyondblue in December 2008 for their own literature review, Feeling queer and blue, was not taken into account.
“They have the data,” she said. “We put together the literature review for beyondblue with a fairly substantial amount of evidence, the best evidence available … even without randomised control trials, including that evidence would be good academic practice, I would have thought.”
Mitchell also hit out at the ethics of conducting randomised control trials with adolescents, saying it was not the sort of research she would want to put participants through.
“You don’t just get two random control samples of young people, then give some depression medication and watch to see how many people suicide.”
McDermott stressed the guidelines — which were withdrawn by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2004 — were still in a draft format and said the information should be viewed as generalist.
He said beyondblue was pushing for a five-year review cycle and raised the potential for annual updates if more evidence is available.
info: The guidelines are open for public submissions until May 12.