New funding to bolster suicide prevention in Sydney’s LGBTI Community

ACON Suicide Prevention Funding$500,000 in new funding is set to bolster suicide prevention efforts in the LGBTI community in Sydney. The new funding from the NSW Government will support suicide prevention training programs and support services being delivered by NSW’s leading LGBTI health organisation, ACON.

The Suicide Prevention Fund is designed to support non-government and community-based organisations to improve responses to suicide prevention at a local level utilising the Black Dog Institute’s LifeSpan Integrated Suicide Prevention Framework in which LGBTI people were identified as a high risk group. The LifeSpan framework pilots nine strategies based on evidence-based initiatives to see which levers in combination reduce the risk and experience of suicide.

“Members of the LGBTI community are disproportionately affected by mental health issues and are at a greater risk of attempting suicide,” said Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies. “We also know that people at risk of suicide and self-harm will not always come into contact with specialised mental health professionals. That is why, as a matter of priority, we need to reach out and connect with people who are at risk and need help.”

The funding being provided to ACON over four years will be used throughout the Sydney and South Eastern Sydney local health districts, and the St Vincent’s Health Network to train GPs to increase their knowledge of and capacity to respond to the needs of LGBTI people at risk of suicide. The new funding will also enable ACON to provide direct aftercare services for those identified to be at risk of self-harm, experiencing emotional distress and requiring support.

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill says the new funding recognises the specific challenges facing the LGBTI community in relation to suicide prevention. “LGBTI people are at elevated risk of suicide, and suicide attempts are significantly higher than the general population,” he said. “Self-harm rates for LGBTI youth, LGBTI Indigenous Australians and the trans community are even higher.”

These concerning statistics are reinforced by a growing body of international and Australian evidence that reveal significant disparities in the mental health status of LGBTI people relative to the general community.

There is growing agreement among researchers that the higher levels of depression, anxiety disorders, self-harm, suicidal ideation and suicide seen amongst LGBTI populations are significantly attributed to ‘minority stress’ brought on by experiences or fears of abuse, discrimination and exclusion, and heightened by ongoing anti LGBTI discourse in the media and in broader society.

“The effects of discrimination, exclusion and violence on the mental health of LGBTI people are well documented,” said Mr Parkhill. “We also know that because of stigma and discrimination, many LGBTI people are reluctant to seek professional help.

“This important funding will assist in addressing these issues by giving us the capacity to provide training for GPs so they can respond more effectively to the mental health needs of LGBTI people, especially those at risk of self-harm and suicide.”

“It will also deliver a much needed boost to ACON’s ability to provide direct aftercare client services. These two objectives are key goals in ACON’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, a five-year plan for addressing mental health in the LGBTI community.”

“We warmly welcome this funding from the NSW Government, which will enable us to not only shine a light on mental health issues in our community, and also further support the strength and resilience of LGBTI people and thereby help to increase mental health and wellbeing.”

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Image: ACON President Dr Justin Koonin, NSW Minister for Mental Health, Women and Ageing the Hon. Tanya Davies MP, RUOK Ambassador Craig Mack and ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill (supplied)