The country’s largest advocacy body for suicide prevention has called on the mainstream health sector to address the alarming rates of suicide in the GLBT community.
Suicide Prevention Australia this week released a position statement on suicide and self-harm in GLBT communities.
The document collates a range of data and studies from the last 10 years to paint a dismal picture of mental health within the community — GLBT people are up to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts and are more likely to perform acts of self-harm. Our youngest and oldest community members are the most vulnerable.
“To some degree suicide and self-harm among GLBT people has fallen off the policy agenda in the last 10 years in Australia,” ActNow project manager and document author Atari Metcalf told Sydney Star Observer.
“What makes this statement particularly exciting is that it’s come from a mainstream organisation. Suicide Prevention Australia is the national advocate and has a great deal of weight and credibility. It sets an expectation up for other mainstream services.”
Metcalf called the document ‘a road map’ for both government and non-government agencies to prioritise their actions to address the startling figures.
“We’ve called on the Government to include dedicated strategies under the national suicide prevention framework that target GLBT communities, or that seek to address the issues effecting GLBT communities,” he said.
“It’s also about creating a socially inclusive society in which gender and sexual orientation are affirmed. From that there are a series of recommendations. At the top of the list is absolutely addressing homophobia in the school system.
“The research we pulled together demonstrated that three-quarters of homophobic abuse occurs in education settings.”
The other key recommendation is to encourage government departments to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The data are very important because it’s a public health issue, it’s a public interest issue and it’s really a measure of how well we do socially,” Suicide Prevention Australia’s chair Michael Dudley said.
“We know those statistics currently have shown the suicide rate is falling, but we know from work on this with coroners and day-to-day stakeholders and the ABS and others, that the statistics are, conservatively, at least 30-40 percent underreported, and we don’t know how many of those people would be same-sex attracted or have gender identity issues as a basis for their distress.”
The document will be circulated to relevant government departments and service providers.

info: For more information on Suicide Prevention Australia go to www.suicidepreventionaust.org. If you are depressed or contemplating suicide contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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