A group of Australian psychologists have formed to promote the growing body of evidence linking the issues of mental health and marriage inequality.

The Brisbane-based organisation, Psychologists for Marriage Equality (PMA), was created to highlight the psychological harm created when people are discriminated against in legislation.

“Together with mental health issues, marriage inequality creates broader issues such as the perpetuation of stigmas toward same sex attracted people,” Centre for Human Potential principal psychologist and PMA spokesman Paul Martin said.

“This ultimately leads to misconceptions in society such as those that same-sex attraction is some sort of disorder or caused by abuse.

“These misconceptions create a range of psychological problems such as feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide.”

Weave Youth, Family Community director Shane Brown said there was a strong link between social inequality and the development of mental health issues.

“While sexuality itself does not cause mental health problems, social issues associated with it can interfere with a person’s mental health and increase their chances of developing a mental health problem,” Brown said.

“Community plays a big part in a person’s welfare, so if someone feels disconnected or differentiated by their community it can lead to issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression or suicide.”

New research outlined by PMA indicates there is a direct decline in the rates of gay and lesbian people accessing mental health services in countries and regions that have achieved marriage equality.

In a 2007 analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data, LGBT people were shown to be four times more likely to attempt suicide and twice as likely to suffer extreme psychological stress, which could lead to substance abuse.

“These issues don’t just affect the individual, they have implications for friends, families, employers and the whole community,” Brown said.

“Inequality disadvantages everyone, not just those who are suffer the inequality.”

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