An alarming number of LGBTI+ Australians are choosing not to seek help from crisis support services in times of need, a new report has found.
The Understanding LGBTI+ Lives in Crisis report, released today, was commissioned by support service Lifeline and conducted by the Australian Centre for Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University.
Lead researcher Dr Andrea Waling said the study found 71 per cent of LGBTI+ Australians didn’t reach out to crisis support services, such as Lifeline, for help during their most recent personal or mental health crisis.
“It’s an alarming figure because we know from previous research that there is a higher rate of suicidal ideation, self-harm and poor mental health in LGBTI+ people,” Dr Waling said.
The study found the main reason LGBTI+ people chose not to use crisis counselling was “an anticipation of discrimination”.
This could include incidents such as potential misgendering of participants, or assumptions made about a participant’s sexual orientation, the report says.
Twenty-eight per cent of participants also expressed concerns about safety and confidentiality using the service.
“Participants often framed these concerns in terms of their fears of being ‘outed’ – many articulating that the disclosure of these identities could threaten their personal safety, and/or their professional lives,” the report states.
Those involved in the study also expressed concern about potential discrimination based on other intersecting factors, including ethnicity, culture, and religious background.
“[Participants] suggested to us that difficulties in working with a crisis support worker could arise not only from language barriers, but also from culturally-specific or linguistically-specific terminologies and concepts that were not easily explained or communicated,” the report states.
Study participants told researchers they did not want to be a burden to those services, with some turning to friends and family or GPs instead and almost half dealing with their crisis on their own.
“Many have faced discrimination from other health services and these experiences mean they’re reluctant to contact mainstream services, even in times of crisis,” Dr Waling said.
More community-based training needed for support service staff
The study was commissioned by Lifeline in a bid to gain a better understanding of how to improve services to the LGBTI+ community, and includes several recommendations.
The recommendations include community-based training programs for staff on an ongoing basis; increased promotion of types of support services, including LGBTI+ services; and further research, including into the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who identify as LGBTI+.
The full report is available to read online here.
Crisis support is available 24 hours a day from Lifeline on 13 11 14 and LGBTIQ-specific counselling and mental health support is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au.