The majority of LGBTQA+ youth feel supported by friends, but more needs to be done to ensure their safety and to improve mental health outcomes, according to Australia’s largest national survey of their health and wellbeing.
The Writing Themselves in 4 national report was conducted by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) at La Trobe University, with support from Rainbow Health Victoria and Rainbow Network.
The survey was conducted in 2019 and asked 6,418 LGBTQA+ people aged 14 to 21 about their experiences with education, homelessness, harassment, assault, mental health, community connections and more.
Findings from the report include:
- After disclosing their sexuality or gender identity, 88.3 per cent felt supported by their friends and 65.2 per cent by teachers
- In the past year 60.2 per cent reported having felt unsafe or uncomfortable at secondary school due to their sexuality or gender identity. This was also true for 33.8 per cent of those at TAFE and 29.2 per cent of those at university
- In the past year 40.8 per cent had experienced verbal harassment; 22.8 per cent sexual harassment or assault; 9.7 per cent physical harassment or assault
- 81 per cent reported high or very high levels of psychological distress
- 10.1 per cent had attempted suicide in the past year, and 25.6 per cent had attempted suicide at some point in their lives
- 23.6 per cent had experienced homelessness, and for 11.5 per cent, it was in the past year. This was often directly related to family rejection of participants being LGBTQA+
- In relation to almost all findings, trans and gender diverse young people experienced disproportionately poor health outcomes, while rural youth had experienced more harassment or assault and were more likely to face mental health challenges compared to those living in cities
Lead researcher, La Trobe Associate Professor Adam Bourne, said the report highlighted the ongoing and significant impact of stigma, discrimination, violence, and abuse on LGBTQA+ young people.
“Every young person deserves to live free from harassment and exclusion, but as this report and many previous reports make clear, LGBTQA+ young people continue to experience hostility in public, in their homes, on the sports field and at school,” said Associate Professor Bourne. “We have to recognise that context as we reflect upon the very high rates of poor mental health that we documented.”
“The creativity and commitment to community of LGBTQA+ young people should be celebrated and admired, and ought to form the foundation for any programs addressing the hostile environment they often face.”
Report co-author, La Trobe Research Fellow and Director of Rainbow Health Victoria, Marina Carman, said meaningful and sustained action is required to address the key issues impacting LGBTQA+ youth.
“It’s important to understand what drives these poor experiences and outcomes, to prevent harm before it occurs. We need to build on existing efforts, work toward greater coordination and build the strategic vision necessary to drive home generational change,” said Marina Carman.
Associate Professor Bourne thanked the thousands of young people who completed the Writing Themselves In 4 survey and generously provided a glimpse into their lives and experiences.
“We now have a mass of information which is providing a vital resource for those working to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for LGBTQA+ young people throughout Australia.”
This is the fourth Writing Themselves In 4 report, following surveys conducted in 1998, 2005 and 2010. Each survey asks different questions and aims to provide a snapshot of the community at that time.
Writing Themselves in 4 was funded by the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, the New South Wales Department of Health, the Australian Capital Territory Government Office for LGBTIQ+ Affairs and SHINE SA, with support from the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist in South Australia. For more information, visit: www.latrobe.edu.au for details.
Note: If you need support, you can call QLife on 1800 184 527, the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about youth mental health, both Headspace and Reach Out can provide guidance.