Marriage Equality Debate Harming LGBTI People's Mental Health

03/04/2016 7:08 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists has raised concerns over alarming statistics around the mental health of LGBTI people, throwing its weight behind the push for marriage equality on health grounds.

The RANZCP published a position statement this week, 'Recognising and addressing the mental health needs of the LGBTI population.' The paper outlines that the college is "concerned that a disproportionate number of Australia and New Zealand’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) population experience mental illness and psychological distress."

"Evidence shows that discrimination and marginalisation experienced by the LGBTI population increases the risk of developing

mental health issues, and also creates barriers to accessing supportive services."

As we outlined in February, in the wake of the Safe Schools Coalition debate, LGBTI people are between three and fourteen times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual Australians, one in six young LGBTI people have attempted suicide, and one in three have self harmed.

"LGBTI identity has historically been criminalised, pathologised or invisibilised by the legal and medical institutions of Australia and New Zealand," the RANZCP wrote in its position statement.

"Legal and medical institutions are becoming increasingly inclusive. Same-sex marriage was legalised in New Zealand in 2013 but is not currently legal in Australia. The RANZCP supports marriage equality based on the evidence that legislative inequality has a significant and deleterious impact on mental health and conversely, that there is a strong link between improved health outcomes and legislation change of this sort."

The college said it supported marriage equality being legislated in Australia, for the positive mental health effects it would have on LGBTI people.

"The RANZCP emphasises the importance of ongoing, respectful dialogue with those on both sides of the marriage equality debate in Australia, and the need for any discussion around the plebiscite to keep the mental health of vulnerable young people as a priority” said RANZCP President Professor Malcolm Hopwood in a statement.

"Research shows intersex individuals exhibit levels of psychological distress comparable to people who have experienced several physical or sexual abuse.

"These statistics show that for many individuals sadly expressing their sexuality can still be a distressing or traumatic experience due to discrimination they experience from their community, and our society at large. This can increase the likelihood of people experiencing mental health disorders."

To read the full position statement, click here.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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