The Victorian Government has urged the Turnbull Government to help states crack down on the dangerous and discredited practice of “gay conversion” therapy in Australia.
The practice involves people suppressing or attempting to change their sexuality, and Victorian Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said the fact that it was difficult to track and regulate shouldn’t be a deterrent for governments.
“It’s a whole new level of bullying and mental health trauma, where people are urged to deny who they are,” Foley told Fairfax Media.
“What is needed is for it to be taken up as a key part of the national mental health strategy.
“Groups like beyondblue and Orygen talk regularly about one of the major drivers [of mental health problems] being LGBTI young people dealing with identity denial.
“And yet here, under a cloak of respectability, some organisations are promoting that very denial… It’s not anything other than dangerous quackery.”
Fairfax reported that if the therapy was included in the mental health strategy, the states and the Commonwealth would have to work together to address the issue.
A spokesperson for Health Minister Greg Hunt said, “This is not something which is funded, supported or practiced under the Commonwealth. Therefore by law this is a matter for states.”
Last year, the Victorian Government gave the state’s Health Complaints Commissioner the power to investigate and ban health practitioners who treat homosexuality as a “disorder.”
A petition started by Chris, an Australian survivor of the “gay conversion” therapy, calling on the federal government to outlaw the practice has been signed more than 12,000 times.
“Trying to ‘pray the gay away’ nearly killed me. I’m not the only one,” he said.
“So-called conversion therapy can cause depression, self-loathing and even suicide. I prayed to God asking him to either heal me, or kill me. I was so depressed, I wanted to die.”
A recent investigation by Fairfax Media found that “gay conversion” therapy has not entirely disappeared in Australia, and had disappeared underground and was “hidden in evangelical churches and ministries, taking the form of exorcisms, prayer groups or counselling disguised as pastoral care.”
“Gay conversion” or “ex-gay” therapy has been widely condemned as unethical and dangerous by numerous bodies around the world including the United Nations, the Australian Psychological Society and peak psychology bodies in the US and the UK.
If this has brought up issues for you, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.