The lead commonwealth mental health agency is concerned about the detrimental impact the marriage equality debate is having on vulnerable people.
The National Mental Health Commission on Monday issued a statement to warn that the debate had heightened discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people.
“LGBTIQ people have experienced damaging behaviour in their workplaces, communities and in social and traditional media,” commission co-chair, Professor Allan Fels, said. “The commission is alarmed about potential negative health impacts these debates are having on individuals, couples and families who face scrutiny and judgment.”
Co-chair Lucy Brogden cited the extension of the debate to gay parenting, and unfounded claims that children would be at risk, as one example. The commission has sought to distribute evidence to clarify misconceptions and hopefully ease tensions on all sides.
“Mistruths being expressed around marriage equality are making some people feel anxious and depressed,” Ms Brogden said.
“This is despite proof that international studies show marriage equality has positive effects, improving the health outcomes, mental and physiological, for LGBTI people. For example, same sex marriage policies are associated with a reduction in the proportion of high school students reporting suicide attempts, according to research in America.’’
Professor Fels said he believed the most disturbing commentary came from a “minority with deep prejudice”. He expressed confidence, however, that the survey would find support for marriage equality, legislation would pass, and with same sex marriage would come greater acceptance.
“Over the years, attitudes to the lesbian and gay dimension have improved considerably, but there is a tremendous way to go with regard to bisexual, transsexual, intersex and queer people,” he said.
The commission, like more than 40 other health organisations, has a position statement that marriage equality is a health issue due to, for example, the higher rates of mental illness and suicide among LGBTIQ people. Although the debate is having a distressing impact, Ms Brogden said pre-existing vulnerability was of most concern.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics earlier revealed the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey forms and envelopes ahead of the mail-out beginning on Tuesday.