Geelong and Shepparton have been singled out as recipients of a state government grant to roll out suicide prevention projects for same-sex attracted and gender questioning youth.

The Geelong Adolescent Sexuality Project (GASP) and Shepparton Uniting Care’s Cutting Edge program will each receive $215,000 annually for four years to role out the initiatives.

“A national survey of [same-sex attracted] young people showed that more than half had been verbally or physically abused because of their sexuality, and the majority of respondents felt unsafe in many different environments, including school, at home and in the community,” Victoria’s Mental Health Minister Lisa Neville said.

“Young people who had experienced homophobic abuse fared worse on almost every health and wellbeing indicator, were more likely to use legal and illegal drugs and had a higher risk of suicide, depression and anxiety.”

Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria will get $320,000 to train staff from youth and health agencies across Victoria to better deal with young people struggling with their sexuality.

The funding is part of a four-year Brumby Government $3.6 million commitment to combat alarming levels of youth suicide in same-sex attracted teens and Indigenous youth.

“Young people from a same-sex attracted background can feel socially isolated and disconnected from the wider community, and often don’t have the same level of connection with youth health facilities and other youth services,” Neville said.

The Department of Sport’s Governance and Inclusion Project community member and GLBTI mental health advocate Rob Mitchell said he was “profoundly disappointed” the funding would only target two regional areas.

“We know what the data says and we also know this problem can be fixed,” Mitchell told Southern Star Observer.

“Until they are going to take this issue seriously by funding it seriously, we’re not going to get a reduction in youth suicide.”

Mitchell said an estimated $2.5 million annually was needed to fund 20 full-time youth workers to “make a dent.”

Taking a stand

GLBTI mental health advocate Rob Mitchell has taken to the air waves to speak his mind about GLBTI youth suicide with a series of controversial advertisements currently running on JOY94.9.

“For years now, we have been trying to get the Brumby Labor Government to take seriously the mental health of our communities,” the advertisement says.

“For years the Brumby Labor Government has been putting us last. On November 27, we have the chance to return the favour.

“It’s the only way we’re going to reduce youth suicide.”

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