Holding tight for marriage equality and mentally healthy communities

Written by Mental Health Australia

Mental Health Australia has a clear vision of mentally healthy people, and mentally healthy communities.

This weekend, thousands of people in our community will celebrate the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. For nearly 40 years, Mardi Gras has grown to represent so much more than a march of pride through city streets. And for many LGBTIQ Australians, it is an important, and sometimes the only weekend where routine discrimination does not cast its dark shadow. Discrimination that is a huge contributor to poor mental health.

In recent years, Mardi Gras and the push for marriage equality have walked hand-in-hand. So much so that we are now seeing major Australian corporations such as the ANZ join the chorus of those pushing for equality. The ANZ’s #HoldTight (link is external) campaign, and the subsequent interviews with staff video (link is external), shows just how far we’ve come, but also highlights how far we still have to go.

From a mental health perspective we know that LGBTIQ Australians experience routine discrimination, along with all its negative mental health effects and that marriage equality is squarely a mental health issue. That led us last year to release our own statement on marriage equality late last year.

We know the determinants of mental health are the same for LGBTIQ Australians as they are for the rest of the community, but ongoing discrimination creates additional challenges.

We know that LGBTIQ Australians experience triple the rate of depression and double the rate of anxiety when compared to their heterosexual counterparts.

And we know that more than half of the LGBTIQ population have experienced verbal homophobic abuse, while LGBTIQ Australians are also between 3.5 and 14 times more likely to attempt suicide.

In a community where mental health impacts 1 in 5 Australians and where our suicide rate is at a 10-year high, the push for marriage equality has to continue, and the chorus must get louder if we are serious about prevention and support for all.

Earlier this week our good friends at the National LGBTI Health Alliance launched a plan (link is external) for strategic action to prevent mental ill-health and suicide, and promote good mental health and wellbeing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people and communities across Australia.

The plan outlines intersectionality, evidence, access, lived experience and social inclusion as five key strategy principles to improve the mental health of LGBTI Australians, and I would encourage all in the sector to support this plan.

Holding tight and more importantly people feeling they can do just that, is a real start, but we are also looking for real change, and real reform. And a big part of that is marriage equality for our community… for all.

#Holdtight this weekend, hold hands with pride every day, and keep pushing for real change and #EqualLove (link is external)