PFLAG Toowoomba have welcomed the announcement of a new program from counselling service Lifeline aimed at improving the mental health of the Darling Downs LGBTIQ community.
Lifeline Darling Downs CEO Derek Tuffield said the organisation had applied for and secured a $40,000 grant to pioneer the “Leading The Change” program.
“It’s a conversation that’s long overdue. We know LGBTIQ people are at a higher risk of self harm, depression and other issues,” he said.
“There are many members of the LGBTIQ community here in Toowoomba but often [the community] goes underground.
“The program’s about bringing together members of the LGBTIQ community and members of the general community to look at how we can best work together.”
Tuffield said the organisation’s program will involve a series of mental health workshops, and preparation was underway for a community forum to be held early next year.
“We’re establishing a working party and inviting a number of LGBTIQ community members to come and sit down with us,” he said.
“It’s about addressing issues they face in areas like social isolation and increasing community support and understanding.”
PFLAG Toowoomba founder Diane Spearritt said she warmly welcomed any move to bring together LGBTIQ people in the region.
“There’s not really much of a LGBTIQ social scene up here, and there’s no social groups or events for teenagers or young adults at the moment,” she said.
“I’d love to see a community-building program where people can get together and encourage each other and build up that face-to-face network.”
She said it could also be difficult for LGBTIQ people to access specialised healthcare in the region as many GPs lacked the expertise.
“Educating those working in the health sector, including in the aged care sector, would really help,” she said.
“There’s no specialist clinic up here for transgender children. You have to travel to the Lady Cilento Childrens Hospital which can be quite tricky.”
“We started it to provide a local contact, because we didn’t have anyone and there wasn’t any support group for parents at that time,” she said.
“Since we’ve started we’ve fielded calls from parents and directed them to the right places.
“There are support groups online, there’s a very good Facebook group called Parents of Gender Diverse Children.
“There are some very supportive medical workers and psychologists in Toowoomba, but it could be hard for someone just coming in to find them.”
If you need support, help is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14, QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.