17 May 2023
How do we support and empower trans and gender diverse people against the impact of ongoing attacks against their right to full citizenship? Mind Australia is doing just that with two programs that are leading the way in LGBTIQA+ mental health and wellbeing support.
The cancelling of community drag story time events because of threats of violence are part of an ongoing attack on the rights and safety of trans and gender diverse people in our community that we know will continue.
Drag story time cancellations, the notorious Nazi anti-trans rally at Parliament House, the Religious Discrimination Bill debate and the marriage equality plebiscite before that have all questioned the right of LGBTIQA+ people to full citizenship and none more so than trans and gender diverse people.
Mind experiences spikes in the number of people from the LGBTIQA+ community seeking support following each of these events, so we know the negative impact they have. Mind’s Aftercare service, which supports LGBTIQA+ people who are having thoughts or intentions of suicide, received a month’s worth of referrals in just two days following the notorious anti-trans demonstration attended by Nazis back in March.
Demand for the service has remained higher ever since, which is to be expected, Mind LGBTIQA+ Strategy and Service Development Manager Isabelle McGovern said.
“The forced cancellation of these drag story time events is undoubtedly affecting the mental health of trans and gender diverse people who already experience significant violence and minority stress,” Mx McGovern said.
“What is worse, these cancelled drag story time events are happening in community settings like local libraries, places which should be safe and open to everyone. The message it sends is it’s not safe or OK to be trans or gender diverse in your local community.”
Mind’s LGBTIQA+ Aftercare program is staffed entirely by LGBTIQA+ community members who have their own lived experience of mental health issues and/or thoughts of suicide.
The Melbourne-based program responds to the disproportionately high rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviours experienced by members of the LGBTIQA+ communities as a result of discrimination and stigma.
It offers recovery-focused, short-term (up to six months) community-based and therapeutic support for people from the LGBTIQA+ community who are having thoughts or intentions of suicide Participants are matched with a peer practitioner and a counsellor/psychologist for weekly or fortnightly sessions.
Ongoing suicide support is provided through a group-based program for people that need long-term assistance and graduates of the program can access the weekly peer-led drop-in session for as long as they need.
Participants are achieving a demonstrably significant reduction in psychological distress as a result of the program. Mind Research and Evaluation Manager Dr Laura Hayes coordinates the outcomes measuring Mind undertakes of all its services.
“The magnitude of change participants report is actually huge,” she said. “Kessler 10 outcome measures indicate a 1:3 reduction in psychological distress between entry and exit to the program.”
The Victorian government recently extended Aftercare’s funding for another 12 months in recognition of its demonstrable success in supporting people from the LGBTIQA+ community who are having thoughts or intentions of suicide.
This was supplemented in March with an extra $100k in funding as part of a $900k package by the Victorian government towards additional trans and gender diverse mental health and wellbeing support, in recognition of the negative impact of the anti-trans rallies and media coverage. This will enable the service to employ an additional practitioner and so expand its capacity to meet increased demand.
While Aftercare provides crucial recovery focused support for people thinking about suicide, another Mind program, Rainbow Recovery, is supporting young LGBTQA+ people to build the self-esteem and resilience to minimise the impacts of homophobia and transphobia.
In Rainbow Recovery, young LGBTIQA+ people experiencing mental health and wellbeing concerns work together with a trained peer facilitator to develop and participate in Youth Mind Recovery College learning modules. Rainbow Recovery provides support, connection and a safe space to think about and discuss LGBTIQA+ topics. Currently, Rainbow Recovery is delivered in north-east Victoria and Bendigo.
New data from Mind Australia shows that the Rainbow Recovery program is significantly improving the mental health and wellbeing of young LGBTIQA+ people.
Mind’s Senior Manager for Inclusion and Participation Katie Larsen said LGBTIQA+ Aftercare and Rainbow Recovery are models for how the mental health sector can contribute to the mental health and wellbeing of the LGBTIQA+ people in the face of these ongoing negative experiences.
“We know the way forward is to have a community centred approach where people who are part of the LGBTIQA+ community and have their own lived experience are front and centre supporting resilience and recovery.”
Rainbow Recovery is funded through Future Healthy: The Big Connect – an integrated health promotion initiative by VicHealth.
For information on Aftercare or Rainbow Recovery visit the Mind Australia website, or contact us via Mind Connect: 1300 286 463.
If this article raises concerns for you, please call Qlife on 1800 184 527, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or contact Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders can also call 13 YARN (13 92 76) a 24/7 national crisis support telephone service staffed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.