15 February 2022

Mind Australia’s Aftercare program for LGBTQIA+ people experiencing suicidal thoughts has seen a rise in referrals as debate over the Religious Discrimination Bill and its impact on the LGBTQIA+ community dominated public discourse in recent weeks.

The bill, which has resulted in debate over the rights of transgender school students, has led to an increase in referrals for psychological distress and suicidality at Mind’s Aftercare program.

Aftercare – a free local program based in Melbourne’s northern suburb of Northcote - has received more referrals via the Mind website in the last two weeks than in the previous two months combined.

Mind CEO Gill Callister said the “prominent and dangerous debate” about the rights of LBGTQIA+ students had directly contributed to a rise in people seeking support for suicidality at the Aftercare program.

“Mind’s Aftercare program continues to develop and evaluate solutions to support much-needed mental health services for LGBTIQA+ communities in Australia but this program currently only services Melbourne – a small portion of a much larger community which continues to be disproportionately affected by mental health and wellbeing issues, including depression and suicide,” Ms Callister said.

“There is now an established body of research showing significant variations in the prevalence of mental ill-health in LGBTIQA+ communities compared to the mainstream, which suggests that LGBTIQA+ people are at increased risk of a range of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety disorders, self-harm and suicide, due to their experiences of heterosexist discrimination and abuse.

“There needs to be an increased awareness about the impact of reckless public debate which carelessly discriminates against LGBTIQA+ communities and in particular LGBTIQA+ youth, and the potentially severe consequences that it has.”

The program which is delivered by Mind and funded by the North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network, supports people who are LGBTQIA+ and are having thoughts or intentions of suicide.

Aftercare Practice Lead Ms Regan Sharp, one of a number of mental health peer support and allied health workers in the Aftercare team, said the program provides “valuable recovery-focused support for LGBTIQA+ people”.

“It’s inclusive, it’s affirming and it’s an incredibly important service,” Ms Sharp said.

“We know that when we have these debates publicly there can be harmful commentary, which can have a negative impact on our community, some of whom are already grappling with mental health issues.

“We know that there is a direct link to psychological distress and suicidality from these public discussions, particularly among young people.”

Aftercare offers recovery-focused, short-term practical outreach and counselling-based support to help clients and their friends and family to find inclusive and affirming care and strategies for their mental health and wellbeing. Aftercare clients range from adolescents to older people living in Melbourne.

Aftercare is currently not accepting walk-ins. For more information call Mind Connect on 1300 286 463 or visit the Mind website here.

If you need immediate help, please contact Lifeline on 131 114 or QLife 1800 184 527.

For information on Mind’s Diversity and Inclusion Framework which demonstrates our commitment to diversity and inclusion and guides the way we work, visit the Mind website here.