Training to improve mental health outcomes for LGBTQIA+ people


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A new initiative by La Trobe University hopes to help mental health practitioners work safely and effectively with LGBTQIA+ clients. 

Research has shown that LGBTQIA+ Australians are at higher risk of anxiety and depression than their heterosexual peers.

The LGBTI Health Alliance’s 2021 Mental Health Snapshot found that compared to the general population, LGBTIA+ people are also more likely to attempt suicide in their lifetime. 

Young LGBTQIA+ people between 16 and 27 years are five times more likely to attempt suicide.

While transgender people over 18 are eleven times more likely.

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LGBTQIA+ people also experience high rates of family relationship struggles and breakdowns, which can amplify these mental health issues. 

To address this concerning data, La Trobe University’s Bouverie Centre and Thorne Harbour Health have launched an online course for mental health practitioners.

The course has been designed with the guidance of people with lived experience and backed by research.

La Trobe University researcher Henry von Doussa said the aim was help practitioners understand the unique needs of LGBTQIA+ people. 

Importantly, the online course will also encourage practitioners to promote familial support. 

Helping address the unique mental health challenges of LGBTQIA+ people

“Traditionally LGBTIQ+ people are excluded from therapeutic family opportunities, or, when included, are often seen as problematic sites of family upheaval or breakdown,” von Doussa said.

“Our research found that strong and inclusive relationships were key protective factors for the mental health of LGBTIQ+ people.

“Particularly around formative moments of identity development, such as disclosing sexuality and gender identity to family members.”

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Thorne Harbour Health Director of Services Carolyn Gillispie said the pandemic had inspired the program’s development. 

“Family involvement became more urgent as [COVID-19] saw many young people return to the family home,” she said.

The course is self-paced and provides a framework for mental health practitioners to address the unique challenges facing LGBTQIA+ people. 

It is hoped that after completing the training, practitioners will be able to create a safe space for families to engage in therapy sessions- while still advocating for the LGBTQIA+ client.

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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