The ‘Vote No’ campaign launched in Sydney last Sunday and in response the National Mental Health Commission issued a statement warning the debate had heightened discrimination against LGBT people, making them especially vulnerable.
They’re right. ReachOut, a national mental health service has experienced a twenty per cent spike in online traffic. That’s around 17,000 extra requests for help.
CEO Jono Nicholas told Fairfax Media people are requesting help because they’re anxious about what the postal survey results will mean.
While ReachOut and Orygen have made their concerns about increased demand public, half-a-dozen of Australia's other biggest mental health organisations have entered into crisis talks over the last three weeks.
Meanwhile, ‘No’ campaign leader, Nationals Senator Matt Cananvan has told LGBT Australians to “stop being delicate little flowers.”
"Can’t we just all grow a spine and grow up? The debate hasn’t been that bad,” he told Sky News.
What young LGBT Australians are experiencing right now is intensified “Minority Stress”: three types of stress minority groups must navigate in their daily lives. This includes homophobic abuse (both physical and verbal), the expectation of discrimination, and the internalisation of negative attitudes towards themselves and the gay community.
Minority stress keeps LGBT people in a state of high alert, wearing down their psychological defences and leads to feelings of inferiority, writes psychiatrist Kamran Ahmed.
As if navigating adolescence wasn’t stressful enough.
I’ve been out for two years now, I’m completely confident in my identity, I’m well supported by loving family, friends and in my workplace (thanks, marie claire!), and I still experience these stresses.
I notice people on the street taking a second glance when I hold another woman’s hand. I have to laugh off pervy, porn-referencing comments from men in bars when I tell them I’m gay. I explain myself to curious new friends who think I “don’t look like a lesbian.” Acquaintances have asked: So how do you have sex?, Who is the man in the relationship?, and When did you decide? more times than I can count.
Straight people are privileged. Not because they have better love or lives, but because they don’t have to deal with any of the above.
Public debate about the postal survey has predictably turned into a circus. That circus is a significant drain on the LGBT community and the mental health organisations supporting them.
Brett Wadelton, who shared his full story with marie claire, outlines just some of things he’s heard:
"In the past week I've read that gays shouldn't be allowed to have kids because they are all paedophiles, children who grow up in rainbow families are more likely to turn to drugs later in life, letting gays marry will open up marriage to animals, there will be an increase in women being raped, radical teaching of same-sex education within schools with parents not having a say, as well as schools telling boys it's ok to wear dresses (we've all seen the commercial)."
The question on everyone's mind, and their lips, is whether or not marriage equality is an antidote - since it won’t necessarily eradicate prejudice against gay people. What we can say is, countries that have marriage equality now experienced a significant drop in mental health visits, and in LGBT suicide rates just one year after legalisation.
There is a clear link between marriage equality and improved mental health.
The team at ReachOut are hoping the result of the postal survey is a resounding yes.
"That will send an incredibly positive message to LGBT young people that Australia does care about them, that we believe in their equality,” Nicholas said.