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Australia’s vote on same-sex marriage very badly affected LGBTI people

Australia’s vote on same-sex marriage very badly affected LGBTI people

Australian marriage equality supporters holding 'yes' signs at a rally

New research shows quite the severity of the impact of Australia’s postal survey on the LGBTI community there.

Psychologists at the University of Sydney conducted the research. They found the more ‘no’ messages LGBTI heard during the campaign led increased levels of depression, anxiety and stress. That occured regardless of people’s age, gender and socioeconomic status.

In 2017, Australia held a non-binding survey on marriage equality. The roughly six-week campaign sparked a vitriolic debate and an increase in homophobic attacks and rhetoric.

The Australian public voted in favor to change the law to allow people of the same-sex to marry. On 7 December 2017, the Australian government passed marriage equality into law.

But the victory came at a cost to Australian LGBTI people.

The University of Sydney researcher spoke to 1,305 LGBTI people during the postal survey. Published in the Australian Psychologist journal, the study found increased exposure to homophobic campaign and media messages was related to increased levels of depression, anxiety and stress among same-sex attracted Australians.

‘The findings highlight how political decision-making and legislative processes related to the rights of minority populations have the potential to negatively affect their mental health,’ said lead author Stefano Verrelli, a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney.

He said the findings confirmed the many concerns of mental health experts and marriage equality advocates during the postal vote. The research has also suggested public divisive debates have the potential to harm the mental health of LGBT people.

How to protect LGBTI people during debates

The research also found how to protect the mental health of LGBTI people during periods of intense public debate.

‘The family and friends of same-sex attracted people appear to play an important role – and seem to even offset some of the harm done by the negative side of these debates – by openly supporting LGBT rights,’ Verrelli said.

‘LGBT rights and mental-health organizations also have an important role to play by continuing their public support of minority issues. Their public messages of support appear to improve the psychological well-being of same-sex attracted people who require it most.’

Even though Australia now has same-sex marriage, LGBTI issues have continued to dominate political and media debates.

The research suggests the ongoing debates could have a ‘significant mental health risk’ for the LGBT community. But they could also promote psychological well-being if it provides LGBT people with opportunities for social support.

‘Our findings have important implications for public policy and for clinical support for LGBT patients, as well as for mental health and LGBT ally organisations,’ Verrelli said.

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