A bipartisan approach between mainstream and community services is needed to address suicide rates in GLBTI people, National LGBT Health Alliance executive director Gabi Rosenstreich has told a Senate inquiry.
GLBTI people continue to be most at risk of suicide. They are six times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals, and 16 percent are likely to be contemplating suicide right now.
Yet there remains no specific mention of sexuality or sexual identity issues in the National Mental Health Strategy, and mainstream suicide prevention agencies continue to lag in their efforts to specifically address this community.
The average age for a GLBTI person to attempt suicide is 16 — a major reason mainstream services are so crucial, Rosenstreich explained.
“A lot of people who attempt suicide have not yet come out. For them, generic services are going to be far easier to access because the step of going to some of the specific community services is still too far off,” Rosenstreich said.
“A double-pronged approach is essential. We need specific services where people can be really confident that those issues have space and they can be provided more in-depth expertise around sexuality and gender issues. There needs to be a partnership.”
She remains confident that this is slowly happening, with more general purpose organisations, including the Inspire Foundation and Head Space, joining the GLBT Health Alliance or seeking guidance on developing specific strategies, as is the case with beyondblue and the Mental Health Council.
“Mainstream services have slowly been coming on board. But generic services need to be very explicit that they are open to LGBTI people,” Rosenstreich said.
Rosenstreich’s views are indicative of the views of community organisations that have contributed to the Senate’s investigations.
In their submission, the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service pointed to the need for improved communication between services, to improve cultural competency and ease pressure from smaller, less well-funded community organisations.
GLBTI seniors activist Dr Jo Harrison and Western Australia’s GLBTI Retirement Association Incorporated raised the issues of older same-sex attracted people being left out of discussions on retired care and mental health care campaigns.
The Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs has extended the date for the Suicide in Australia inquiry. It is expected to report back on June 24.
info: For more information or to read submissions in full, visit http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/clac_ctte/suicide/index.htm.
info: If you are contemplating suicide, or need help with mental illness, contact Lifeline’s 24-hour service on 13 11 14. The Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service can be reached on 8594 9596 from 5.30pm. Young GLBTI people can also contact Twenty10 for assistance through their support line on 8594 9555 or 1800 65 2010.