Australian women are being called on to name lesbian- and bisexual–friendly mental health professionals.
The push comes as the Australian Lesbian Medical Association (ALMA) moves to expand its lesbian health information service to include mental health listings.
ALMA DocLIST coordinator Dr Sarah Burrowes said it’s important lesbian and bisexual women feel comfortable when accessing mental health services.
“Mental health is an area were sensitivity is important to people,” Burrowes told the Star Observer.
“The personal nature of things discussed with mental health professionals certainly includes people’s intimate relationships.
“In a time a lot of mental illness is going on, it does impact on relationships or can cause some issues with relationships, so it’s important women feel comfortable that that practitioner is not judgmental and has some awareness of the differences between gay, lesbian, bisexual relationships, compared to heterosexual relationships.”
Research has consistently shown lesbian and bisexual women are more susceptible to poorer mental health than their straight counterparts.
A 2010 NSW survey of almost 1000 women showed 64 percent had accessed psychological services in their lifetime, while 42 percent had been given a mental health diagnosis.
In the same survey, 47 percent of respondents said they had also used one or more illicit drugs in the six months before the survey and up to 56 percent reported drinking at a risky level.
ALMA set up the DocLIST service in 2010 after queries from lesbian and bisexual women looking for LGBTI-friendly health-care providers.
The list currently contains the names of 56 GPs, 20 specialists, six mental health professionals and two dentists from around Australia.
“We’ve had a lot of recommendation for psychologists in particular since DocLIST started,” Burrowes said.
Once a patient has seen a health professional, she can make a confidential recommendation on the DocLIST website.
When ALMA receives the recommendation, the health professional is contacted to seek his/her permission to be added to the list.