Australia’s Aboriginal LGBTI people have asked for support to improve their community’s mental health – especially young people – for years. Now, money is finally going to groups to help improve the mental health of young, Aboriginal LGBTI people.
The National Health and Medical Research Council has won a $716,000 grant to research the emotional wellbeing and mental health needs of LGBTI Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.
Little to no data exists on the suicide rates of Aboriginal LGBTI people. But anecdotal evidence suggests it is one of the highest rates of any community in Australia.
There is also no data on how many Aboriginal LGBTI people aged between 15-24 there are in Australia. Experts believe there number exceeds 17,000.
Dameyon Bonson founded Australia’s only suicide prevention organization for Aboriginal LGBTI people, called Black Rainbow. He spearheaded the calls for better mental health support and welcomed the grant.
He said that although mental health support should target all ages groups this was a great start.
‘The need for research into Indigenous gay and transgender suicide was first recommended 20 years ago, but the fact this is the first time any kind of nationally funded research will actually happen highlights how much this portion of the population has been ignored,’ Bonson said.
‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who identify as LGBTIQ are vulnerable to homophobia and to racism, and young people are vulnerable by virtue of their youth.’
The most vulnerable
Researchers will carry out the three year project in Western Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
Dr Ashleigh Lin, head of Mental Health & Youth research at the Institute, received the grant. She will work other Telethon Kids’ researchers, Western Sydney University, the Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre at Murdoch University, and Black Rainbow.
‘We know that being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, being young, and being LGBTIQ are all risk factors for poor mental health and suicide, but there’s really not very much known about what happens when you are a member of all three of these groups,’ Dr Lin said.
‘The research is almost non-existent. However, anecdotally, these young people are often marginalized from the LGBTIQ community. There are also cultural concerns that can lead to exclusion from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.’
‘This project aims to better understand the social and emotional needs of this vulnerable group and the barriers they face when accessing health services. We will then work with them to co-design appropriate interventions to improve their mental health and wellbeing.’