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New mental health program takes aim at Australian LGBTs

Australia’s largest LGBT community health organization has developed a new education program that aims to reduce the impact of mental distress in the LGBT community by helping people improve their understanding of mental health.

Beginning later this month, ACON’s Peace of Mind program is a series of free workshops being delivered in Sydney and throughout the state of New South Wales (NSW) which will help LGBT people identify when their family and friends are experiencing mental distress and how they can offer support.

The program has been developed by ACON (formerly the AIDS Council of NSW), in partnership with Australia’s Mental Health Coordinating Council (MHCC) and in collaboration with the Australian National LGBTI Health Alliance and Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria.

Acting ACON CEO Geoff Honnor said the program was a preventative measure designed to help people recognize signs of mental distress.

‘Current research shows that LGBT people are more likely to experience mental health issues than people in the general community,’ Honnor said.

‘For example, LGBT people are twice as likely to experience anxiety disorders, three times as likely to experience affective disorders such as depression and social phobias, five times more likely to experience major depressive episodes and up to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide. What we know from the broader mental health field is that supportive personal networks are one of the most powerful tools for supporting recovery.

‘Through the program, we will also be providing cultural sensitivity training for health care workers in mainstream services so they can meet the needs of LGBT people more effectively. A trial of the program earlier this year got a terrific response from participants and we anticipate a lot of interest so I encourage people to register for a place as soon as possible.’

Three different free workshops will be held for LGBT community members in locations across NSW.

The ‘Mental Health Connect’ one day workshop is about understanding the experience of mental distress and supporting people who experience mental health problems and will be run in ten locations across NSW on selected Saturdays between July and December.

The ‘Rainbow Blues’ workshop aims to provide insights into understanding depression and anxiety, why it seems to affect LGBT people more than other groups. It will also provide hints on living with depression and how to support someone who is depressed or has an anxiety disorder. This two hour workshop will be run in Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong and Lismore on selected dates between September and November.

The ‘From Dying to Thriving’ workshop aims to help participants to have a greater understanding of suicide and to respond confidently to someone who is experiencing major psychological distress or suicidal thinking. This one day workshop will be run in Sydney and Lismore on selected Saturdays during October and November.

An additional introductory workshop is also available for service providers within the mental and allied health sector who would like to better understand and respond to LGBT people experiencing mental health issues. This four hour workshop can be run on request.

For more information about workshop times and locations or to register for a workshop, visit the Peace of Mind website at www.peaceofmindproject.com.au
 

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