New Study Links Discrimination to Mental Illness in LGBT Youth

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The Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre has partnered with the University of Western Sydney and Twenty10 to release a study entitled ‘Growing Up Queer: Issues Facing Young Australians Who Are Gender Variant and Sexuality Diverse’.

The study has involved more than 1000 people aged between 16 and 27 across the country. It found that 16% of young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer have attempted suicide and 33% have harmed themselves as a result of widespread transphobic and homophobic violence and harassment.

The study has also found that homophobia and transphobia have a serious effect on many young peoples’ education, causing some students to change schools multiple times and sometimes drop out of school altogether. Many students witness other young people who come out at school being bullied and keep their gender and/or sexual identities secret as a result. Rejection from families can lead to economic instability for some young people. Amongst the study’s findings was also the finding that sexuality education in schools does not respond to the needs to experiences of young LGBTIQ people, which can lead to harmful social and health related experiences. Living in a rural or isolated community can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, with access to support services often limited in these areas.

Associate Professor Jane Burns, Young and Well CRC CEO had this to say:“The findings of this study overwhelmingly highlight the serious impact of homophobia and transphobia, particularly when you consider that 42% of those surveyed had thought about self-harm and/or suicide.

“This research suggests that LGBTIQ young people are around six times more likely to consider taking their own life than their heterosexual peers, reflecting similar findings in other research in this area.

“While there are a small number of fantastic community organisations providing support and guidance to young people identifying as LGBTIQ, such as Twenty10 incorporating the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service NSW, much more needs to be done by way of education and training so that this dire impact on the mental health and wellbeing of these young people can be eliminated.

“Technology has a huge part to play here: the research shows 85% of young people used the internet to explore their sexual or gender identity on sites like Minus18, Tumblr, Facebook and YouTube, and 78% of young people felt accepted, 66% felt they could find others like themselves, 60% felt safe and 57% could feel proud of their sexuality in that space,”

Various LGBTIQ Australians with a high public profile have lent the study their support. Former Triple J breakfast host Tom Ballard commented:“Being a teenager can be hard enough, but these added factors of homophobia and transphobia for LGBTIQ youth can make it extra-super-sucky. We all have an obligation to confront the ignorance and bullying indicated in this research, and we’ve also got to remember to send messages of love and support to kids out there to help them get through to the other side.”

Actress Magda Szubanski agreed: “People often ask if things are especially tough for young LGBTIQ people – the answer is YES. And here we have the study that proves it. Now let’s just hope that adults do something to improve these dreadful statistics and the lives of our young people.”

Former High Court Judge, the Hon. Michael Kirby stated “These statistics are shocking and need to be known and acted upon urgently by parents, education and sporting authorities, and churches. They also have serious economic consequences for Australia,”

More information is available here.

Sophie Joske

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