Plebiscite: Fund Support not Hate

Mental Health Support Service Deeply Concerned About the Impact of the Marriage Equality Plebiscite – Continues to experience two-fold increase in LGBTIQ Clients and their Families

drummond street services, a Victorian-based family support agency that provides specialist counselling and support to LGBTIQ people and their families, continues to experience an increase in demand for mental health support.

Karen Field, CEO says, “we are deeply concerned about the impact of the planned Plebiscite, and as the Parliament debates and plays their political manoeuvres this week, the real impacts and distress of LGBTIQ people goes on.  I spent the recent weekend at a Rainbow Families forum where LGBTIQ community members; mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and family members, shared their distress or that of their children who are experiencing increased bullying and assaults; in the school grounds, on the street and on Facebook.  This Plebisicite touted as democracy in action is a platform for prejudice and judgement, essentially giving permission to insult and offend – which the parallel debate on Section 18C contributes to a community and political discourse which is saying it is still OK to discriminate”.

drummond street services is also experiencing increased presentations of Sex and Gender Diverse young people, (as young as 4 years of age) seeking support, who are depressed,anxious, self-harming and suicidal.   Our clients are also conveying stories of verbal and physical attacks in public, workplaces and via social media.

The very public social commentary over the past 12 months is likely to worsen, giving license for not only the small but negative homophobic and transphobic elements within the broader community; the ‘usual suspects’, but more alarming is the possibility of government-funded discrimination and endorsement from those who are expected to lead, represent and embody the best of community standards.

LGBTIQ clients are telling us of discrimination where shops, taxis and even health care providers are refusing to provide services.  The Plebsicite and its ensuing debate is like entering a time machine taking us back to an era that many Australians thought had been finally resigned to history.

In the previous year drummond street services’ queerspace mental health clinical program saw 470 LGBTIQ clients, with this figure rising to approximately 700 clients in 2016. We are also seeing increasing levels of trauma in an already vulnerable community.  It is important to emphasise that the LGBTIQ community experience some of the highest rates of mental ill health, self-harm and suicide, high levels of family and community violence, homelessness, disrupted schooling and poor health. Our clinical data from the past 12 months shows we supported:

  • 687 LGBTIQ clients
  • 91 clients  trans or gender diverse
  • 144 cases were sex and gender diverse children and young people (under 25 years) and their families
  • 62% of all LGBTIQ cases involved previous histories of family and or community violence and a range of co-occurring health risk issues.

“Our waitlists extend for months, though often our staff are having to dispense with waitlists in order to respond to LGBTIQ young people and adults in immediate danger of self-harm or suicide.” When social commentators, politicians and media cover the Plebiscite debate, we experience a spike in calls and posts to our social media from distressed LGBTIQ people and their worried families – it becomes very personal” says Field.

“As a mental health provider to this vulnerable community we implore our political leaders to stop this damaging Plebiscite when we have significant evidence that it will cause irreparable further harm to the LGBTIQ community and their families. We fear that if it does go ahead, our service will not be able to meet the already increased demand for mental health services for this community and thought must be given to providing increased support to respond to its obvious impact.

Instead of funding an expensive Plebiscite, how about funding for mental health support?”

Karen Field

Chief Executive Officer