A rural youth worker has slammed the state Government for not acting sooner on suicide prevention for same-sex attracted youth.
WayOut Youth project coordinator Sue Hackney said a federal inquiry into Australia’s suicide rates is too little too late for funding-starved state suicide prevention bodies. The issue of tackling suicide rates was last week referred to a Community Affairs Reference Committee inquiry.
Hackney, who works with same-sex attracted and transgender teens, said although she welcomes discussion, there have already been three gay youth suicides in rural Victoria this year.
“I’m at a bit of a loss as to why further inquiries need to be done. It’s clear the problem is we’ve got a chronic shortage of resources on the ground,” Hackney told Southern Star.
Hackney said the three youths who died could have been better served with support groups, but funds and resources were already stretched to capacity.
“I’ve been doing this job for seven years, and for seven years I’ve been lobbying for more funding … this is something we’ve brought to the [state] government’s attention time and time again,” she said.
“It’s about about creating better environments for these young people to be living in, so when they are at a point of real distress they’ve got mechanisms of support around them.”
Hackney said first-time relationship break-ups were fast becoming a factor in gay youth suicide.
“This is particularly magnified for young people who are gay because they think they‘ll never be able to get a another partner,” she said. “It’s their first big relationship and when that falls apart, their whole world crashes in because they don’t know anyone they can talk to about it, it’s like their dirty little secret.”
In 1997 the state Government produced a Suicide Prevention Task Force Report which included gays and lesbians as a high-risk population group.
“That was over 10 years ago. They know the need is there. Why are we still wasting time having further inquiries, what further evidence do they need?” Hackney asked.
The WayOut Project currently receives around $85,000 annually from the Department of Human Services for Hackney to cover the whole state.
National advocacy group Suicide Prevention Australia recently released a policy position on suicide and self-harm among the broader GLBT population, saying GLBT people may be anywhere from 3.5 to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.
info: Call Lifeline 131 114.

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