Same-sex marriage debate damaged LGBTQI mental health: Study

Paul Hayes

26/01/2019 12:20:33 PM

Research has confirmed what many long believed.

Research also identified that strong social support can reduce distress and protect the mental health during periods of intense public and political scrutiny. (Image: James Ross)
Research also identified that strong social support can reduce distress and protect the mental health during periods of intense public and political scrutiny. (Image: James Ross)

Research undertaken by psychologists at the University of Sydney has found exposure to negative and homophobic messages during the 2017 same-sex marriage debate was associated with increased levels of depression, anxiety and stress in the LGBTQI community.
‘The findings highlight how political decision-making and legislative processes related to the rights of minority populations have the potential to negatively affect their mental health,’ the study’s lead author Stefano Verrelli said.
Published in Australian Psychologist, the study evaluated the mental health of 1305 people who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual during the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey.
The findings also align with the fact LGBTQI mental health services saw a significant increase in access during the marriage survey. A number of health authorities and other organisations expressed concerns about issues of mental health during the debate.
‘We all knew the postal survey was going to cause harm to LGBTIQ+ people,’ Australian Greens Senator and LGBTIQ+ spokesperson Janet Rice said. ‘Everyone from medical experts, mental health organisations, community groups and LGBTIQ+ people continuously warned against it.’
The new research also identified that strong social support can reduce distress and ‘protect the mental health of same-sex attracted people during periods of intense public and political scrutiny’.
‘The family and friends of same-sex attracted people appear to play an important role, and seem to even offset some of the harm done by the negative side of these debates, by openly supporting LGBT rights, Mr Verrelli said.
‘LGBT rights and mental-health organisations also have an important role to play by continuing their public support of minority issues. Their public messages of support appear to improve the psychological wellbeing of same-sex attracted people who require it most.’
Mr Verrelli said that while Australia has achieved marriage equality, ongoing debates about religious freedoms and gender and sexuality make for heated and often discriminatory public discourse, and the mental health of LGBTQI people remains at risk.
‘Our findings have important implications for public policy and for clinical support for LGBT patients, as well as for mental health and LGBT ally organisations,’ he said.
Note: The interchangeable use of ‘LGBTQI’, ‘LGBTIQ+’ and ‘LGBT’ in this article reflects people’s own terminology.

marriage equality mental health University of Sydney

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Joe   24/01/2019 8:52:05 PM

Dear Paul,

I understand that RACGP is not aiming at academic level journalism. But next time you write a piece on ‘the enormous cost of same sex marriage’, please consider the extremely biased and poor level of research you are quoting. Please consider providing an alternative perspective for your many readers that believe marriage has been demeaned by allowing people of the same sex pretend their unions are equivalent to traditional marriage.

Kind Regards,

Peter Coleman   25/01/2019 9:09:13 AM

The marriage debate I believe was healthy for all of us. We need to respect each other and understand that some things we do are unhealthy. By debate we hear other ideas. I believe we need each other and need to listen to one another.
The definition of marriage that I believe and I am sure many of the large, not small minority believe comes the word of God , Jesus quoted in Matthew 19 from genesis , in the beginning God made them make and female. A man shall leave his mother and father and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. They are no longer two but one. What God has put together let no man separate.
Jesus was saying this for our benefit and we are free to do or not do what it says.
If anyone needs help in this regard I would be happy to listen and help. We are loved and forgiven and healed and delivered by the sacrifice of Jesus 2000 years ago.
Peter Coleman

Liam Carroll   25/01/2019 9:39:39 AM

One can feel sympathy for any group who suffers like this. But it is important as well to be reminded that not only one side suffered mental anguish. The anti same sex marriage cohort also suffered with slurs being levied at them ( in my case as well ) People who perceive themselves as victims often exempt themselves from responsibility. A number of my anti same sex marriage patients showed signs of stress and confusion. Lets be mindful of this
Hate speech is in the mind of the recipient and can be constructed to fit many definitions and agendas. Defining it to avoid all sensitivities would stifle conversation , silence people , drive opinions underground and more importantly dissolve away the opportunity to educate people who hold extreme views . But above all it is intellectually lazy to silence alternative and often non savory views just to avoid conflict and having to think hard....Let's not hide behind terms such as " Inappropriate" and " I am offended". That allows one to play the lazy moral outrage card and is no substitute for a hard fought argument