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Mental Health Organisations Struggle To Cope With Increased Distress In The LGBTIQ Community

On Monday, Prime Minister Turnbull defended No campaigners for writing “Vote No” in the sky over Sydney on Sunday, ignoring the toll his same-sex marriage survey is having on the LGBTIQ community. Meanwhile, mental health organisations are struggling to cope with a sharp spike in demand for support from the LGBTIQ community.

The Prime Minister told reporters on Monday morning that the views of both No and Yes sides have to be respected in the postal survey.

“It is a matter of public discussion, people are entitled to express their view,” he said.

“I know there will be some unpleasant things said, there always are, but most Australians are filled with good sense and understand the importance of that mutual respect.”

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that in the past three weeks, half a dozen of Australia’s mental health organisations have been involved in urgent talks over how to deal with the increased demand for support by LGBTIQ people and their families. Some of these organisations have taken their concerns straight to the Prime Minister.

"We are hearing a lot from LGBTIQ people that this is reviving traumatic experiences, particularly from their school years," Professor Patrick McGorry, executive director of Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, told Fairfax Media.

Online youth service ReachOut has reported a 20 per cent surge in people accessing its online advice relating to LGBTIQ issues since August. ReachOut CEO Jono Nicholas told Fairfax media that already vulnerable young LGBTIQ Australians are having their distress heightened by the postal survey.

"The debate around the postal survey has been, and will continue to be, a significant drain on both the LGBTIQ community and the mental health organisations that support them," he said.

"We fear Australia will be counting the cost of the postal survey for many years to come, and not just to the budget."

Labor MP Andrew Leigh spoke to Sky News, saying “We warned this would happen, this is why Labor never supported this idea of a national survey."

“The important thing is that those organisations are resourced, and Bill Shorten has called on Malcolm Turnbull to provide additional resourcing to mental health services, particularly those supporting young gay and lesbian teenagers.”

The Australian Psychological Society has produced a tips sheet to advise their psychologists on how to help LGBTIQ people and their families who seek support. With the help of Winnifred Louis, Associate Professor at the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland, the APS information has been adapted here for use by the LGBTIQ community:

• It’s important to recognise and acknowledge how you are feeling and accept these feelings as normal, given the climate of negativity and homophobia we are exposed to. But we have many allies, and the YES campaign grows bigger every day. But the tide of crazed rubbish is also rising, and it’s not easy for anyone to deal with the hurtful, strange things that people are saying.

• It’s important to share how you’re feeling with someone who cares about you and to seek support if you are feeling overwhelmed. Whether you call listening lines, turn to LGBTIQ groups or to friends, family or a psychologist, reach out.

• People who have been bullied or subjected to hate speech can seek support from their parent and schools or managers and workplaces as well as from support organisations.

• Be aware of and avoid negative coping such as risk-taking, self-harm, substance abuse and suicidality. If you recognise that you are experiencing increased impulses to respond to your stress with these methods, reaching out is even more important. You don’t have to go through this alone.

• Support yourself with positive self-care, such as taking a break from the media stories about the debate, logging off from social media and blocking any posts that are causing you distress. Remember to eat healthily, exercise and get enough sleep.

• Stay involved with positive activities, your social networks and supportive friends and family members.

• Remember that the LGBTIQ community is resilient. We have been through a lot, even just in the last few years, and we can get through this. The “postal survey” will be over in a few months, and regardless of what happens, we are and always will be strong, proud and fabulous.

If you or anyone you know are struggling to cope, help is available.

Call Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 for assistance from a trained mental health professional.

Q Life is available for web-based support or call 1800 184 527 to talk. Hours are 3pm to midnight.

Call Lifeline for crisis support on 13 11 14.

The Australian Psychological Society has developed a resource to help parents, teachers and caregivers talk to children about marriage equality and help kids if they’ve been the victim of homophobia or hurtful views. Click here to read their guide.

The Australian Psychological Society also has a resource to assist people in discussing the marriage equality survey. This resource includes information about supporting LGBTIQ friends, family and the LGBTIQ community. Click here to read this guide.

For more same-sex marriage postal survey survival tips from a survivor, click here.

ReachOut is a great resource for under 25s. Click here to read their postal survey survival guide.

Search for a psychologist in your area here.

#AustralianPolitics #SameSexMarriagePostalSurvey #LGBTIQRights