A fifth of gay, lesbian and bisexual British people who have tried to change their sexual orientation have attempted suicide, according to a study of harmful “gay conversion therapy” in the UK.
It ran during December 2018 and attracted over 4600 responses, of which a tenth (458) stated they had personal experience of attempting to change their sexual orientation.
Over half of these said they had experienced mental health issues, of whom nearly a third (91 people) said they had attempted suicide while over two-thirds (193 people) said they had had suicidal thoughts.
Two in five of those who reported mental health issues indicated they had self-harmed and a quarter said they had suffered from eating disorders.
The survey’s results were presented in The 2018 National Faith and Sexuality Survey Results by The Ozanne Foundation, a charity founded by LGBT evangelical activist Jayne Ozanne.
The charity’s founder, Jayne Ozanne, underwent conversion therapy herself and she said she understands the significant harm the practices can do.
“For many, much of this report will confirm what they already know regarding the dangers of ‘conversion therapy,'” she said.
“However, it is the scale and severity of the problems experienced and the age at which children are said to be exposed to these practices that are of the gravest concern.
“The high level of reports of attempted suicide and suicidal thoughts amongst those who have attempted to change their sexual orientation is not something that can be easily dismissed.
“These are serious safeguarding issues which require urgent action.”
In Australia, a report last October from La Trobe University documented the experiences of more than a dozen LGBT survivors of harmful “gay conversion” or “ex-gay” therapies over the decades, with the report claiming the practices remain a “real problem” in Australia’s religious communities.
Last month, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews blasted conversion therapy as “bigoted quackery” and said the government would develop legislation to denounce conversion therapy and prohibit it in law, after consultation with survivors, the state’s LGBTIQ Taskforce and community and faith-based organisations.
La Trobe University senior lecturer Tim Jones, who co-authored the 2018 conversion therapy report, said a “multi-faceted approach” in partnership with health professionals, religious institutions and communities was needed to address the issue.
“Stronger laws and support for survivors are incredibly welcome steps, but we also need education and research about the harm caused by the cultural ideas and messaging prevalent within faith communities, to drive change from within,” he said.
Last year a coalition of survivors, LGBTIQ advocates and churches urged federal MPs to address the issue, delivering a 43,000-signature petition calling for an inquiry into the issue, greater powers for health and consumer watchdogs, tougher regulations for counsellors, and a public health and awareness campaign.
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14, QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.