The impact of mental illness within the LGBTI+ community
The recent suicide of a young gay Australian serves as a painful reminder of the mental health issues our community faces.
Mental health is an issue that will affect one-third of the general population in their lifetime and is an issue close to my heart.
For those in the lgbti+ community, the statistics are even more harrowing, with twice the prevalence of mental illness and related complications of drug abuse, medication dependence and suicide when compared to our heterosexual and cisgendered counterparts.
For a condition so common it is still severely undertreated and over stigmatised. Compounding this is a high occurrence in our community of psychological and physical trauma, whether in the form of rejection by our families of origin, hate speech or hate crimes in our communities, or bullying at school.
Often mental illness is ignored or dismissed by patients, friends and family, and even healthcare professionals.
It is dangerous to be complacent about mental health as it has been proven to kill, with suicide being the leading cause of death among young gay Australians.
Why are we twice as likely to suffer? I believe it comes down to feeling like we don’t belong, like we aren’t part of the whole.
While our community is known for their ability to come together and be supportive of one another there is still a group of at-risk people that do not receive this support due to fear of outing or discrimination due to sexual preferences or gender identity.
This stigma contributes significantly to the willingness to access support for at-risk LGBTI+ youths and contributes to creating a group of people that feel alienated and different.
Despite my own battles with mental illness, I feel I am one of the lucky ones.
I have seen friends broken by their struggle with mental illness, whose dependencies took them away too soon.
Through working with the Ambulance service I have witnessed tragedies caused by mental health, and can honestly say ‘even one is too many’.
I have felt so consumed and overwhelmed by the effects of mental health that it has seemed suffocating.
Although my battle with mental illness has been lifelong I consider myself lucky. I have had access to support services and avenues for management of my mental illness.
I have received the education and attention many fail to receive. I was fortunate enough to get the help I needed, however, I realise how easily I could have become a statistic, how easily I could have lost control.
Because of this, the importance of reaching out to assist those not as “lucky” as myself is clear.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the difference I can make in helping people feel like part of the puzzle and not a spare piece.
I want to show that there are ups and downs, good and bad days. I want to be as honest as I can, not hiding anything.
I am proud to be part of the LGBTI+ community and I am not ashamed that I live with mental illness.
For more on Troy and the other finalists of Mr. Gay Pride Australia visit the website www.mrgayprideaustralia.com