29/09/2017 10:08 AM AEST | Updated 29/09/2017 10:08 AM AEST

We Must #mindthefacts Around Mental Health And Vote YES To Marriage Equality

As many as 3000 youth suicide attempts could be averted each year with a ‘Yes’ vote.

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As with any public debate there are always a number of differing viewpoints. We can agree with one stance or disagree with others as we base our values and beliefs against what is being said or what is being written.

Unfortunately, in some debates the waters can also be muddied, meaning the real facts don't make it to the surface for all to see.

I'm sure you will agree when you are asked to make a choice that impacts on your or someone else's life you want to make sure the decision you make is a positive step forward that helps rather than hinders.

I want to share some facts with you as the Turnbull Government's postal survey continues to be distributed across Australian households. I've held this portfolio for the past 14 months and the statistics around mental health and suicide can only be described as extremely confronting.

It is estimated around 4 million Australians aged 16 to 85 experience mental health problems. This represents about 20 percent of adults or one in five Australians.

In addition, around 600,000 children and youth between the ages of four and 17 were affected by a clinically significant mental health problem.

As ReachOut's CEO Jono Nicholson said, "voting 'Yes' will undoubtedly change thousands of young lives for the better".

You may not know that 2866 Australians died from suicide in 2016. That's around eight people a day.

You may not know there are around 65,000 suicide attempts each year in Australia. That's almost 180 people a day.

Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal that, in 2016, suicide was the leading cause of death among all people aged 15 – 44 and the third-leading cause of death among those 45 – 54 years of age.

Sadly, suicide continues to disproportionately impact indigenous communities, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people twice more likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in the 15-17 age-group had a suicide rate more than five times higher than their non-Indigenous peers.

The mental health of LGBTQ people is also of concern, with lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians twice as likely to have a high to very high level of psychological distress as their heterosexual peers.

According to Suicide Prevention Australia, hundreds of Australians are impacted by each suicide death. Behind every loss is a community of relatives, friends and colleagues dealing with grief.

These facts are heartbreaking.

We have to also remember these are not just statistics -- they are people -- our brothers, sisters, lovers, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, work colleagues, class mates and friends.

I wanted to share with you these facts to give you some context about the impact this postal survey may have on the mental health of LGBTQ Australians.

Australia's leading mental health experts are so concerned about the postal survey on LGBTQ Australians they've launched their own campaign.

The Black Dog Institute, headspace, Orygen, ReachOut and the Brain and Mind Centre have collectively used their expertise to ask Australians to consider what impact their vote will have on Australia's youth.

This campaign #mindthefacts aims to encourage Australians to consider the links that exist between youth suicide and discrimination against young LGBTQ people when they cast their vote in the postal survey.

Experts say that as many as 3000 youth suicide attempts could be averted each year with a 'Yes' vote for marriage equality.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten wrote to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, this month because he too was concerned about the impact this postal survey would have on the LGBTQ community.

What Bill asked for was an urgent allocation of funding for counselling and trauma services because as the mental health experts have long warned there has been a negative impact felt by members of the LGBTQ community. To date, Malcolm Turnbull has not responded to this request.

The facts are there has been a spike in demand for mental health services in recent weeks, as a result of the postal survey.

In August, it was reported that Beyondblue registered a 40 percent increase in call volume following the announcement of the postal survey.

LGBTQ phone-counselling service QLife has also recorded more than a 20 percent increase in the amount of calls since the postal survey was announced.

This increase in demand for services is of real concern to me. What this suggests is that people are vulnerable and they feel hurt. It's also clear they don't want a public debate that judges them, their relationships or their families.

The learned views of mental health experts should not be ignored.

I encourage you to consider the facts in this debate and listen to those who have not only undertaken important peer reviewed studies but those who work with vulnerable Australians each and every day.

Labor knows there is more to do to improve the mental health of Australians and find ways to reduce the thousands of lives lost to suicide each year. It is only by working together that we will be able to finally reduce the impact of suicide in our society.

One way we can work together and make a difference to the lives of others is by voting 'Yes' in the postal survey.

As ReachOut's CEO Jono Nicholson said, "voting 'Yes' will undoubtedly change thousands of young lives for the better".


For 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Other services include Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467, Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636,Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800, MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978

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