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Time to stand up to homophobia

On the eve of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), headspace poses these questions to all parents, carers and the wider community.

Is it acceptable that same sex attracted young people are up to three times more likely than their heterosexual friends to attempt suicide?

Is it acceptable that in rural and regional areas the attempted suicide rate for same sex attracted young people is six times the population average?

Is it acceptable that 60 per cent of same-sex attracted young people experience violence or abuse, and 78 per cent happens at secondary school and 47 per cent when they are simply walking down the street?

Is it acceptable that same sex attracted young people are more likely to end up homeless?

Is it acceptable that people who identify themselves as being homosexual/bisexual are more than twice as likely to have experienced a mental disorder?

Is it acceptable that depression and anxiety rates amongst lesbian and bisexual women are at least twice those of heterosexual women?

If you answered no to any of these questions, then it's time to notice what's happening to our children.

The CEO of headspace, Mr Chris Tanti, said: "It is no longer okay for us to pretend there isn't a problem, because the health and wellbeing of thousands of young Australians is at serious risk and that's something that should concern everyone.

"We know young people who are same sex attracted or uncertain about their gender identity are at higher risk of experiencing mental health concerns due to the difficulties associated with disclosure and community attitudes," Mr Tanti said.

Same sex attracted youth face particular pressures in their relationships with family, peers and schools, which can lead to vulnerability to depression, homelessness and drug use in response to lack of acceptance and bullying.

"Regardless of your personal values, the safety and wellbeing of our young people is the most important thing. All young people deserve the right to be safe and free of bullying, violence, isolation and discrimination.

"Non-judgemental respect and acknowledgment of sexual orientation and gender identity is an important step towards understanding a young person's experience and needs. The ages of 12 to 25 are the most critical period for the development of a person's identity, and 'coming out' may be particularly difficult and a time of greater uncertainty," Mr Tanti said.

headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation Ltd is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing under the Youth Mental Health Initiative Program.

headspace fully supports IDAHO and the work many individuals and groups are doing to address discrimination of young people, particularly those initiatives that challenge homophobia and promote a safe environment for all Australians.

Education of service providers, young people and the wider community is important to ensure the particular needs and issues facing same sex attracted young people are recognised and discriminatory beliefs are addressed.

headspace will launch a campaign in the coming weeks to raise awareness amongst parents and carers about the issues their children may be facing and the significant impact this can have on their mental health and wellbeing.

headspace will also emphasise to young people that there is a safe place for them to go where they can talk to someone else.

"So at this important time when people across the community are starting to take a meaningful stand against homophobia, headspace asks parents and carers to answer one more question - regardless of my own values, would I want my child to feel so isolated or threatened that they felt taking their own life was the only solution?"

headspace media contact:

Briony Walker
Mob 0402 399 746
Email bwalker@headspace.org.au