Wellbeing of LGBTIQ given the current national survey

Wellbeing of LGBTIQ

This has been on my mind for a week or so, and with the postal survey having been approved by the High Court, I thought that it’s time to post. There’s a lot of information and commentary flying around at the moment about the same-sex marriage equality postal survey. The postal survey is just that, it is asking us to answer a simple question on a singular issue and then the government will make a decision to have a parliamentary debate about the issue.

I’m not interested in publishing my view one way or the other, it is not the appropriate forum for this nor is it professional.

I am interested in wellbeing, particularly the wellbeing of individuals who identify as LGBTIQ. LGBTIQ individuals are a vulnerable group who have experienced a long history of discrimination and have struggled with acceptance within society. In more recent times this is beginning to change and there is more acceptance for those who identify differently to the norm.

Being different can be hard. It doesn’t matter how you might be different from the norm, gender identity, sexual orientation, race or colour, religious identity, mental health diagnosis or issue, political persuasion, or a particular subculture. Some differences as simple as musical or literature tastes, food likes and dislikes or dietary beliefs are a little more easy to maintain. Everyone is different from everyone else. It’s a little like Groove Armada’s “If everybody looked the same”…  life could be quite boring if everyone looked the same, felt the same and believed the same. Diversity makes life interesting.

Young people are a particularly vulnerable group due to their emerging identities and search for their place in society. They are asking themselves lots of questions:

  • Am I ok?
  • Am I normal?
  • Do they like me?
  • Am I likeable?
  • How do I fit here?
  • Who do I fit with?
  • Who do I feel comfortable with?
  • What do I believe?
  • Who do I want to be?
  • How do I want to be? 

Young LGBTIQ can be particularly vulnerable. Not only are they coming to terms with their identity as an individual, but also as a young LGBTIQ individual. They are coming to terms with the fact that they might be different to their friends and peers and different to their family. They might be trying to work out how and when, or even if, to disclose this to others. They might be being bullied for being different and might not have even come to terms with this difference for themselves.

LGBTIQ populations are twice as likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorders than the general population (http://lgbtihealth.org.au/statistics/). Recently it was World Suicide Prevention Day and Australian data suggests that suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 44 (www.wspd.org.au). And LGBTIQ between the ages of 16 and 27 are five times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. And those whom experience harassment or bullying are even more likely to attempt suicide (http://lgbtihealth.org.au/statistics/).

At this time, but at all times, it is important to take a step back, pay attention and notice if someone is struggling. This might mean letting go of our own personal views and putting another’s emotional and mental wellbeing first. If you know someone who is struggling with themselves or with how this issue is being presented in the media it might be helpful to stop and just ask them if they’re ok. Then just listen: What are they worried about? What are they afraid of? Is there something that you can do to ease this for them? I’m not asking you to change your opinion, but maybe it might be helpful for those you care about if you asked questions rather than told them what you think…

My request is that we respect others humanity and allow them to have their opinions. If we disagree, that’s ok, maybe we could ask questions to explore more about the opposite view to try to understand instead of just dismissing it. Presenting sound evidence can often assist in a debate. But it is important to remind yourself and others that we are all humans and it is important to interact with others with equality and treat others as deserving of equality.

If you know someone struggling or you are struggling yourself, please seek help. Contact one of the telephone or online help services, or speak to your GP, or make an appointment to see a psychologist who might be able to help you.

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