Study Confirms Postal Survey Damaged LGBTIQ Australians’ Mental Health

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Photo: Lucia Weiland

New research has found the same-sex marriage postal survey led to increased depression, anxiety and stress among LGBTIQ Australians, leading advocates to call for political parties to rule out holding public votes on LGBTIQ rights.

The University of Sydney study, published in the Australian Psychological Society’s journal Australian Psychologist, assessed the mental health of 1305 Australians who identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual during the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey in late 2017.

The research found increased exposure to homophobic campaign and media messages was related to increased levels of depression, anxiety and stress among same-sex attracted Australians.

“The findings highlight how political decision-making and legislative processes related to the rights of minority populations have the potential to negatively affect their mental health,” lead author Stefano Verrelli said.

The research also identified factors that can protect the mental health of same-sex attracted people during periods of intense public and political scrutiny, Verrelli said.

“The family and friends of same-sex attracted people appear to play an important role – and seem to even offset some of the harm done by the negative side of these debates – by openly supporting LGBT rights,” he said.

“LGBT rights and mental-health organisations also have an important role to play by continuing their public support of minority issues.

“Their public messages of support appear to improve the psychological well-being of same-sex attracted people who require it most.”

Mr Verrelli said the findings confirmed the many concerns expressed by mental health authorities and marriage equality advocates during the postal vote, including the Australian Medical Association, the National Mental Health Commission and the Australian Psychological Society.

‘Rule out ever again subjecting LGBTIQ people to a public vote’

Responding to the research, just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said all political parties must rule out ever again subjecting the equal rights of LGBTIQ people to a public vote.

“The damage the postal survey did was completely unnecessary because a decade of polling showed strong majority support, and because marriage equality could and should have been resolved by a free vote on the floor of Parliament,” he said.

“This research shows that those community members and politicians who took a strong stand against the Government’s proposal for a public vote were right to do so.”

Croome said the research findings were relevant to the ongoing debate around controversial laws allowing LGBTIQ-identifying students and teachers to be discriminated against by faith-based schools.

“The postal survey research is a reminder of the adverse impacts of discrimination on the mental health of LGBTI people,” he said.

“With opinion polls consistently show Australians oppose laws that allow discrimination against LGBTI students and teachers in faith-based schools, it’s time for Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten to act decisively and stop such discrimination.

“Let’s not consign LGBTI teachers and students to the decade of indecision faced by same-sex couples who wanted to marry.”

Action on the issue was delayed due to political deadlock last year, but advocacy group Equality Australia this week released research finding 72 per cent public support for protecting LGBTIQ students and teachers from discrimination.

The research also found 67 per cent of Liberal voters support legal protections preventing faith-based schools from expelling students or firing teachers “for being gay or transgender”.

(Photo by Lucia Weiland)

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