Almost 42% of LGBTIQ Australians reported having thoughts about suicide in 2019, according to a major new study by La Trobe University.
The university released the major study Private Lives 3 on Friday, from the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS).
The researchers surveyed over 6,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer Australians last year on their health and wellbeing.
Of the participants, 57.2% reported experiencing high or very high levels of psychological distress.
Over one in four (41.9%) participants reported considering attempting suicide in the previous 12 months. One in twenty (5.2%) reported having attempted suicide in the past 12 months.
Almost three quarters (74.8%) reported having ever considered attempting suicide at some point in their lives. And almost one third (30.3%) reported having attempted suicide before.
Sadly, these rates are considerably higher than the general population, according to the latest data.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Anthony Lyons said legal and social changes in Australia had benefited LGBTIQ Australians in recent years.
However he said the Private Lives 3 report reveals many of us sadly still experience stigma, discrimination, violence and abuse.
Governments must act on LGBTIQ suicide rates
Joe Ball is CEO of Switchboard Victoria, an organisation operating helplines and peer support programs for queer Australians.
Ball said the new suicidality data is “shocking and heartbreaking” and requires urgent government action.
“Although we’ve known about these statistics for quite some time because of our work… not until today have we had such shocking and unambiguous data,” Ball said.
“Targeted responses to LGBTIQA+ suicide prevention is too often not on the agenda. It is often an afterthought or considered otherwise dealt with in large catch-all services.”
However the new findings confirm “beyond any doubt” that the “catch-alls are failing LGBTIQA+ people.”
“These statistics represent LGBTIQA+ people who are struggling and have struggled,” Ball said.
“They are the lives of people in our communities who need targeted LGBTIQA+ suicide prevention services equipped to respond to the social, economic and material drivers of LGBTIQA+ suicidality.”
Joe Ball went on to invoke the iconic AIDS activism slogan “Silence Equals Death”.
“We will not be silenced, not when over one in four LGBTIQA+ people considered ending their lives last year,” Ball said.
“That is almost twenty times higher than the general Australian population. These findings absolutely must not be ignored.
“State and federal government must respond urgently to the immense need for better LGBTIQA+ suicide prevention and mental health care for LGBTIQA+ people.
“With this data in hand, there’s no excuse not to take immediate action at a state and federal level.”
‘Support exists, but the problem is overwhelming’
The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations are also calling for public investment in LGBTIQ organisations to improve services.
“The LGBTIQ community needs to know suicide is preventable and recovery from mental health crisis is possible,” CEO Daryl O’Donnell said.
“Support exists, but the problem is overwhelming the limited LGBTIQ services available. More investment is urgently needed.
“Feeling understood and accepted is key to mental health recovery. But La Trobe’s research shows the majority of LGBTIQ people do not feel accepted when accessing health services.
“A professional mental health response led by the LGBTIQ community means people will find support from their peers, who have insights into their experience.”
Challenges of COVID-19 isolation on LGBTIQ Australians
Private Lives 3 is the third report of its kind, following earlier similar studies in 2005 and 2011.
Researchers conducted the third study last year, before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted Australian’s lives.
If you need support, 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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