The National LGBTI Health Alliance has said more must be done to address suicide rates in the Australian LGBTI community.
Speaking on World Suicide Prevention Day today, the Alliance’s executive director Nicky Bath said suicide was “a universal challenge” and is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported 3,128 deaths by suicide in 2017, according to the latest data.
But Ms Bath said “significant knowledge gaps” remain in the Australian data for LGBTI-identifying people and communities.
“This morning I had the honour of [the] World Suicide Prevention Day Breakfast at Parliament House,” she said.
“It was wonderful to see strong support from all sides of politics for suicide prevention. We were asked to shine a light on suicide prevention each and every day.
“I am asking that when we do this, that we ensure that we acknowledge LGBTI communities, who are too often left in the dark.”
Ms Bath said LGBTI people still experience a higher risk of suicidal behaviours than non-LGBTI people.
She attributes this to the impact of “minority stress” – the chronic stressors that LGBTI people are uniquely exposed to including experiences of discrimination, social exclusion, harassment and physical violence.
“We still do not know how many LGBTI people die by suicide,” she said.
“This is due to LGBTI indicators not being captured in coroner report data.”
Ms Bath said “everyone has a role to play” in preventing suicide, both at a community level and politically.
“It is important to recognise that government policy such as the Religious Discrimination Bill … is not conducive to the government’s zero suicides target,” she said.
Calls to include LGBTIQ questions on next Census
Bath said including sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex questions in national population research, specifically the next Census, was urgent.
“[These questions are] vital if we are to tackle the ongoing significant health disparities among LGBTI people and communities,” she said.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is considering such questions for the next Census in 2021.
“The meaningful inclusion of data on these topics is most welcome as there are no other alternative data sources or solutions that could meet these topic needs,” the National LGBTI Health Alliance said in a joint statement last month.
LGBTIQ suicide data collection very poor, royal commission told
In July, Victoria’s royal commission into the mental health system heard LGBTIQ people currently have the highest rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts than any other group.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people aged 16 to 27 are five times more likely to attempt suicide, figures show.
Transgender people over 18 are nearly 11 times more likely. Almost half of transgender young people report attempting suicide at least once.
But gender and sexuality commissioner Ro Allen told the commission the numbers are likely higher.
“We have very, very bad data collection around this,” Allen said.
“I remember going to funerals of young LGBTI people and families didn’t know they were queer. It certainly wasn’t recorded.”
The commissioner attributed the high suicide rates to the compounded discrimination faced in daily life.
“We don’t wake up in the cot hating ourselves, it comes from somewhere,” Allen added.
“[It comes] from stigma about how we are labelled and identified, whether it’s through the media or through the recent postal survey which was a tsunami of attacks on our mental health.
“It’s not uncommon to just have abuse yelled at you. You never know whether that’s going to escalate into anything potentially violent.”
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.
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