By Zoe Carter
After almost a decade in operation, Australia’s national depression initiative beyondblue has taken its first major step towards addressing the alarmingly high levels of depression and anxiety in the GLBTI community.
Meeting in Melbourne last Thursday, more than 70 invited representatives from key service providers and stakeholders were in attendance for the GLBTI Mental Health Roundtable convened by the organisation.
At the meeting beyondblue gave a firm, though unqualified, commitment to collaborate with national GLBTI groups on ways to tackle GLBTI community depression.
Beyondblue CEO Leonie Young identified up to $2 million in funding that could potentially be earmarked for GLBTI relevant programs in the next 12-18 months.
“The community rely on us to be relevant and take action,” she told the meeting.
“Whether you’re from Melbourne or Mundijong, young, old, gay or lesbian, it’s about assessing risk factors and we’re delighted to be collaborating and doing so with so many people with shared interests.”
In his opening address beyondblue chair Jeff Kennett stressed the role the organisation has played in increasing awareness of depression, pointing to its high profile campaigns to “increase understanding to the point where we can talk about it openly and people can feel comfortable seeking help”.
The lack of comfort in seeking help was a key theme at the meeting, with roundtable participants identifying homo- and trans-phobia as dominant factors in comparatively high levels of depression and anxiety in the GLBTI community.
Kennett’s own record of widely reported homophobic comments was conspicuously not on the agenda and the former Victorian premier left shortly after his speech.
The unwillingness of beyondblue to engage with the GLBTI community on mental health in the face of substantial evidence-based research showing alarmingly high levels of depression and suicidal tendencies has garnered the organisation much criticism.
National LGBT Health Alliance executive director Gabi Rosenstreich welcomed the long overdue overtures made by beyondblue and the possibility of future contributions.
“The relationship between beyondblue and the LGBT community hasn’t always been easy so I commend [them] for taking the criticism on board and doing something concrete,” she said.
“We bring a lot of knowledge and expertise to the table, and until now we’ve lacked the resources to do what needs to be done.”
A second roundtable is scheduled to be held within a year.
beyondblue promises gay focus
By Zoe Carter