drummond street services, a family support agency that provides counselling and support to LGBTIQ people and their families, warns that the rolling Canberra leadership fail – which instead of action offers a compromised plebiscite in the form of a costly postal survey – will trigger months of mental anguish, and pose a potential suicide risk, to many already vulnerable Australians, leaving the community to bear the costs and the impacts.

Throughout the protracted marriage equality debate/s the agency has continued to see high demand in distress counselling as the same-sex marriage debate degenerates into an emotive and unresolved political brawl, where gamesmanship has overridden leadership for the people. The toll it takes on individuals and their families is stark.    From social media to the street, incidents of bullying increase dramatically and (far from being democracy in action) the plebiscite becomes a damaging battering ram for vested interests – now to extend across many excruciating months.

drummond street services CEO Karen Field says, “Once again a plebiscite is put forward without any real consideration or understanding of the impacts.   It encourages hate, vilification, on-line bullying and sanctioned hate speech.”

“Imagine what $120 million could do if it was allocated to youth mental health, recognising that suicide rates are on the rise and LGBTIQ young people and their families carry this burden in disproportionate numbers.”

“Wait lists continue to extend for months, with our practitioners having to respond to young people in immediate danger of self-harm or suicide.”

“When politicians weigh in to this debate, or when articles appear in the paper, we experience a spike in calls – as well as posts on our social media – from distressed young people and their worried families” says Field.

“Politicians rightly exhort evidence-based practice.  Well LGBTIQ people tell us, as does research from around the world and by drummond street services itself, that individuals in the LGBTIQ community are at a greater risk on a range of health indicators, including mental health. As a group they are also less likely to seek help from mainstream services.

Anxiety and depression are particularly common, and many of drummond street’s clients fear hearing the next round of debate in the media and being exposed to insulting, demeaning or ignorant comments.

Parents of young clients have said that they are suddenly finding themselves confronted by public hurtful commentary about their children which, in the words of one parent “feels exactly as though my child is being bullied by the whole country”. 

Field says, “Young LGBTIQ people are listening to politicians and social commentators and it is causing immeasurable distress to them. Our leaders have a responsibility to these vulnerable young people and, like all adults, they need to think carefully about where their words land, and what damage they can do.”

drummond street services implores politicians, and others in the media, to take responsibility for the impact of their comments on young and vulnerable members of the LGBTIQ community. These are times when greater compassion and acceptance is needed and could save lives.

drummond street services calls on all federal parliamentarians to ‘stop the delaying tactics and consider the impacts on LGBTIQ families and young people and their allies’.  ‘Leadership is needed – and this means our elected representatives need to use the parliament to change the law, not further impede through costly administrative processes wrongly touted as direct democracy’

Politicians may have ‘gone postal’ but let us speak up and out and stop this hurt and hate by letting our Australian parliament do its job, and stop the costs on the Australian public and, worse still, the costs of the wellbeing and health of LGBTIQ people, their families and their children.