Staying connected to supportive family and friends is a very important part of staying mentally healthy, and while many people within the LGBTI communities have great social networks, too many have strained ties with some or all of their families — often family members do not understand the issues being faced by members of the LGBTI communities.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people are up to 14 times more likely to try to take their own lives, three times more likely to develop depression and twice as likely to develop anxiety, when compared to straight people. Similarly, Australian and New Zealand research into trans people’s mental health found more than one in three participants were currently experiencing depression and one in four people reported having suicidal thoughts in the previous two weeks.
Supportive families promote well-being and help protect young people against risk, but rejection by family members is a major risk factor for mental health problems and also for risk of suicide, which is why beyondblue has developed the Families Like Mine resource.
It is an Australian-first online e-book that beyondblue proudly launched with Her Excellency the Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia and beyondblue Patron recently in Melbourne.
Families Like Mine offers practical advice and guidance for families, helping them to understand what it means to be a young gay, lesbian, bisexual or gender-diverse young person.
The online booklet contains answers to many common questions and evidence-based advice on many topics related to coming out, communicating within the family, myths and realities. There is also information on how the broader family can support anyone within the family who might be displaying negativity towards the news.
We have heard from parents who have found it hard to access information and someone to talk to, and in other cases, we hear people saying ‘I wish my parents knew more’.
beyondblue Ambassador Julie DeBondt Barker spoke at the Families Like Mine launch about her journey as a mother. Julie’s son came out 13 years ago as a 15 year old. She said she had a lot of gay and lesbian friends, but was surprised at her own feelings when her son told her he was gay and how she had difficulty adjusting to that.
Julie is one of the people featured in the video interviews that are embedded into the ebook. There are five video interviews with people who share their experiences about when they came out and interviews with parents talking about their reactions to learning their child was same-sex attracted or gender diverse.
These stories are incredibly powerful and help make Families Like Mine so worthwhile.
A recent beyondblue-funded research study conducted by Drummond Street Services in Melbourne found that negative experiences with families of origin were the most significant social context clients discussed regarding their sexuality.
It shows that negative experiences within the family may have the most impact on people who are accessing support services.
Conversely, supportive friends, supportive or close relationships with one’s mother and positive experiences within the family about one’s sexuality were found to be protective of a person’s mental health.
It is sad that in some families, when their child comes out and declares their sexuality or gender identity that they are rejected or excluded to the point where the family relationships fracture.
When families of origin are not supportive and inclusive of LGBTI young people, you can imagine how discrimination in the broader community would add to the negative impact on their health and wellbeing.
Many LGBTI people may feel that their parents may never change their minds or their opinions.
However, it is possible for people to change their perspective when they have a better understanding of the facts.
I believe it’s not where you start in life that’s important, it’s where you finish and life is a continual process of education.
Whatever the situation is with your family of origin, try to ensure your family of choice is strong and supports you.
beyondblue has supported the Pride Festival season for several years and these events are a great way to connect with the communities.
If you are separated from family and friends over the holiday season, it’s important to plan to be with people who care about you. Try to reach out and connect with supportive friends and families of choice. There are also services that can support you if you’re having a rough time.
The beyondblue support service is available 24/7 on 1300 22 4636 or via webchat 4pm-10pm seven days a week via the beyondblue website (www.beyondblue.org.au). Our online community is also a great way to connect with others.
QLife also provides an important peer based service operating as Australia’s first nationally-oriented counselling and referral service for people of diverse sex, genders and sexualities.
QLife can be contacted on 1800 184 527 or visit the website (www.qlife.org.au) to access web chat from 5.30-10.30pm.
A beyondblue funded study is looking for trans people to complete a survey about their health and wellbeing. Visit www.transoz.org to take part.”