Tuesday October 10 is World Mental Health Day and opposition leader Bill Shorten has marked the day by urging Aussies to go "…beyond the rainbow filter and the #voteyes hashtag – to reach out to the (LGBTI) people we care about.”
In an opinion piece for the Huffington Post on Tuesday, Shorten highlighted the toll the marriage equality postal survey is having on the LGBTI community. Mental health organisations have reported a sharp increase in requests for support from LGBTI people and their family members and Shorten says he receives a “stack of emails every day from LGBTQ people and families who are struggling – or worried about the people they love."
Shorten says that although he knew the survey would harm the LGBTI community, he’s “still been surprised at just how deep the hurt is running.”
“I've had old friends who have comfortably identified as gay for decades, in committed relationships and raising families, who tell me they feel they are treated as second-class Australians when another advertisement comes on the TV attacking them.”
“I've had older people telling me they now feel like they did decades ago, before homosexuality was decriminalised.”
“Parents have told me that their kids have come home from school repeating vile things that they heard in the playground.”
“Activists are telling me that after years of tireless campaigning, they almost feel like giving up. It's become too exhausting and too painful.”
"And that's just a small proportion. What about the people who aren't sharing their stories? Is anyone listening to them?"
The link between discrimination and LGBTI youth suicide and LGBTI mental health issues is well documented and the No campaign and media coverage of the 'debate' has heightened the LGBTI community's exposure to homophobia, bigotry and hate.
No campaigners took their message to the skies of Melbourne on World Mental Health Day, skywriting "No" several times above the city and outraging same-sex marriage supporters on social media.
“This World Mental Health Day let's all acknowledge that our fine words are not enough. Let's all pledge to follow it up with some action," wrote Shorten.
"Let's go the extra mile -- beyond the rainbow filter and the #voteyes hashtag -- to reach out to the people we care about."
"Today, I'm shooting off a few texts and emails to some mates who I know might be having a hard time during this survey."
"I'm telling them I'm thinking of them. I'm telling them that I value them. I'm telling them that they aren't alone. And I'm telling them that Chloe and I voted YES for them."
“That's what I'm doing today. I hope you will too.”
In case you missed our guide to self-care during the postal survey, here it is again.
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. As the tide of crazed rubbish is also rising, 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 member.
• 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 soon, 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.
Call Lifeline for immediate crisis support on 13 11 14.