THE health and wellbeing of lesbian, bisexual and queer women will come into focus in an upcoming conference organised by the Victorian Aids Council (VAC) in partnership with the Rainbow Network.

A recent study by beyondblue exploring alcohol and other drug use by LGBT-oriented women found that over 50 per cent of the participating lesbian, bisexual, and queer women had experienced mental health concerns, and just over 40 per cent were drinking at unsafe levels.

In light of this, a Women’s Health Conference in Melbourne on March 27 will feature a panel of experts in the field of LGBT health, including speakers from beyondblue, VAC and Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria.

beyondblue chief executive Georgie Harman said that lesbian, bisexual, and queer women were at a higher risk of mental health problems than other women.

“LGBTI Australians are far more likely to be psychologically distressed than non-LGBTI Australians, largely due to the discrimination, homophobia, and transphobia they face, which can be devastating,” she said.

“Bisexual women and lesbians however are even more likely to be psychologically distressed than bisexual and gay men, which reflects the higher prevalence of depression and anxiety among women generally.”

The study also found that lesbian, bisexual, and queer women were under represented in accessing support due to a range of reasons, including fear or previous experience of discrimination in a service.

“Our hope is that this conference allows us to give the needs of women in these communities the attention and careful consideration necessary to offer the best possible response through our services,” VAC chief executive Simon Ruth said.

“Continuing to target the specific service needs within LGBTI communities is paramount.”

Harman said the conference was important because of the need for all people to get the support they need.

“No-one should be made to feel like crap just for being who they are,” she said.

The conference will be held at Jasper Hotel, 489 Elizabeth St, Melbourne. It’s free but RSVP is essential. Details: www.vac.org.au/WomensConference

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