headspace is one of Australia’s most respected mental health organisations. On its website it currently has a page devoted to a statement headed Marriage Discrimination is Harmful to LGBTI Australians’ Health. But not only headspace; it is cosigned by nearly forty other Australian health and mental health organisations. They point out that
The evidence clearly shows that LGBTI communities have significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal ideation and suicide than the general population.
They further comment that the cost is not just to the individuals involved but that we all pay for these outcomes in our taxes. And not just for the mental health costs. Due to the stigma they are experiencing, members of the LGBTI communities tend not to access medical services when they need to. We know that when communities do this the costs of treating them are higher and their health outcomes are poorer.
What we are saying about LGBTI people is that whatever else society may say about them, their reality is that they are mostly sadder, more stressed and less healthy than the rest of us. And that this is directly attributable to how they are treated by the rest of society. It can be hard for the wider community to recognise this when those members of the gay community that are in the public space tend to be highly successful in their arenas. In spite of the many issues they face, LGBTI people have contributed enormous amounts to our community.
But it is not just LGBTI people who are negatively affected by marriage discrimination. All those who love and care about them are too. It is extremely distressing to have your child treated poorly by others in society and to not be able to intervene to protect them, no matter what their age. According to PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) some of the issues that accepting parents face include:
- Family acceptance – can the rest of the family accept the gay child as the parents of the gay child has
- Hate crimes prevention – working to prevent gay bashing and other forms of hate crimes against gay kids
- Health – addressing the health concerns of gay kids as they come into adulthood
- Military – working within the current framework (which currently does not address transgender individuals)
- Relationship recognition – working to achieve equal rights and recognition for gay relationships as for heterosexual relationships
- Safe schools – parents of gay children ensuring a safe learning environment
- Workplace fairness – supporting the gay child and any issues they face when entering the workforce
Of course, that does not consider siblings, friends, cousins and workmates, just to name a few, who are also distressed and angry that the ones they love are not being given a fair go.
Read more about PFLAG here
So when you receive the envelope, unless you are one of the few Australians who has strong objections, remember that marriage inequality is not only about the rights of citizens to all enjoy the same rights. It is about all citizens enjoying the same rights to mental and physical health, whether they themselves are gay or love and care about someone who is gay. And make a positive difference to our whole community.
See the headspace statement here
And congratulations to headspace and all the other organisations who have spoken out on this issue and the realities faced by so many LGBTI people in Australia today.