This column discusses queer mental health and includes mentions of suicide and self-harm.
Your mind can be a dangerous place. In queer communities worldwide there is a higher prevalence of mental illness than in their heterosexual counterparts. There are clear associations between sexual orientation / gender identity and increased rates of self-harm, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts. This is no less true in Aotearoa. Despite this, there are no queer-focused mental health support initiatives or programs funded by any of the district health boards throughout the country. The general services that are available are often highly insensitive to the cultural and queer specific needs of those who seek help, further alienating them from finding support and healing. And that’s assuming they can afford treatment at all.
So why do queer people have it worse when it comes to mental health? While there is obviously no silver-bullet magic answer, a lot of the harm comes from (you guessed it) heteronormativity. The continuing social stigma around non-cis / heterosexual identities creates, perpetuates, and exacerbates the negative internal world that many queer people experience. Homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and general heteronormativity are constant oppressive force in the lives of queer people. They shame and isolate us, and lead to internalisation of harmful self-hate.
- SPONSORED -
What can you do to help? We’ve been beating this drum for a while now this year, but CALL OUT YOUR FRIENDS WHEN THEY SAY HOMOPHOBIC SHIT. Refuse to tolerate a society that ignores queer suffering and perpetuates hate. Donate (time, money etc.) to support services that openly work to help queer folk.
We don’t need to settle for this. We can do better.
If you or someone you know is having issues with their mental health and would like queer friendly support, there are organisations who want to help:
OUTLine: 0800 OUTLINE (0800 688 5463)
Rainbow Youth: http://www.ry.org.nz/
NZ AIDS Foundation: www.nzaf.org.nz