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Improving Mental Health in the LGBTI+ Community

02 November 2017 - Dr Jan Orman

The next Black Dog Institute / eMHPrac live webinar will be held on 15th November. It’s an auspicious date. It’s the date the results of the national plebiscite on marriage equality will be announced.

This has been a harrowing time for many people and it may not get a whole lot better for some after the announcement. This webinar aims to help practitioners support the wellbeing of their LGBTI+ patients and clients.

I’ve done a lot of research for this webinar. In the beginning someone said to me “LGBTI people experience anxiety and depression just like the rest of us and the treatment is the same – they don’t need special resources.” Somehow that didn’t ring quite true.

Managing Mental Health in Minority Populations

It’s true that everyone needs to learn the same strategies to manage their mental health no matter who they are or what social and cultural minority they belong to. But some people, by virtue of the fact that they are part of a social and cultural minority, need help that acknowledges and works with their special life experience and difficulties.

3% of the population identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Nobody would deny that ATSIC people experience particular difficulties that contribute to their mental health. In fact whole programs have been developed to help them through life and a lot of money has been spent developing these programs. I have no argument whatsoever with all that and feel strongly that there is much more that needs to be done to help the ATSI community and its members.

10% of the population identifies as being sexually or gender diverse. These LGBTI+ people experience childhood adversity as well. They also experience significant prejudice as adults. Their experience of adversity and prejudice is different from that of members of the ATSI community but still contributes significantly, in a negative way, to their psychological wellbeing. The same logic applies to the need to provide specific resources for LGBTI+ people as for ATSI people.

Learning More about LGBTI+

I thought I knew something about this community and was well equipped to help them. I have friends and relatives as well as patients who identify as LGBTI. This period of research has made me realise that I just don’t know much at all. I’ve uncovered a deep well of ignorance in myself about what it is like to struggle with the emerging awareness of difference in yourself as an adolescent and the unacceptability of that difference to those closest to you, family and friends, and to society as a whole.

I’ve been researching widely and I am learning a lot. Here are just some of the things I can recommend that might be helpful for you if you too want to get a greater understanding of what it’s like to be “different”:

  • “The Heart’s Invisible Furies” a new novel by Irish novelist John Boyne (author of “The Boy In Striped Pyjamas”)
  • Quarterly Essay - Issue 26 2017 “Moral Panic 101, Equality, Acceptance and the Safe Schools Scandal” by Benjamin Law
  • History of decriminalisation of homosexual acts in Australia

Personal story videos

Growing Up Gay In The Country I the Feed - click to view

QLives: Jason's Story (Mental Health) - click to view

QLives: Rural and Regional Stories - click to view

Australian Story, About A Girl - click to view

Watch the recorded webinar

If you are a health professional you can register to watch the on-demand recording of the live webinar. A link will be added to this post when the recording is available.

Dr Jan Orman
Dr Jan Orman

Jan is Sydney GP, private psychological medicine practitioner in Sydney’s inner west and a GP educator for Black Dog Institute.

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