It’s common knowledge that Australian LGBTQI individuals experience higher rates of suicide and poorer mental health outcomes than our non-LGBTQI peers.
In recent years the rates of depression, anxiety and self-harm amongst regional Australians have also been a growing concern. So, what about the mental health of LGBTQI people living in the bush?
A double whammy, I should know, I’m a young gay man living in a rural town of 2400 people called Hay. We are right in the middle of nowhere, or everywhere and last year hosted our first pride festival, Rainbow on the Plains.
Action is needed to help people access inclusive and safe mental health support, wherever they are located. Cultural and social support infrastructure, just like Rainbow on the Plains, can also help improve mental health outcomes by providing a positive sense of community and belonging for all LGBTQI people. Feeling welcome in our communities is so important for LGBTQI peoples’ health and wellbeing.
Through strong cultural and social infrastructure, we can help all LGBTQI people thrive as who they are, give them a chance to become leaders for their local communities. That’s why I believe cultural projects such as The Rainbow on The Plains Festival and Broken Heel Festival are essential to healing our community.
We need to fill the gaps and my vision is for a future where the social support networks and positive collaborations I see in action for LGBTQI people living in the cities are extended into the rest of Australia and beyond.
It starts with the external and internal as well. Challenging things like racism, transphobia, xenophobia, sexism and any other forms of discrimination that play out within the LGBTQI community is crucial. No one deserves to be left behind and as a minority, we should be aware. This is only part of the answer, services such as ACON, QLife, Headspace and Beyondblue are essential in addressing this concern
Enhancing and strengthening opportunities for our communities to connect is very important to me, as I personally deeply struggled with my sense of belonging in regional Australia. With the right resources and infrastructure, we can all better thrive as individuals and as a community.
I believe we can change that for every LGBTQI Australian slowly but surely. We can make a difference, I’m in – are you?