Growing concerns have emerged among the social support sector around the impact of the Coalition’s same-sex marriage postal plebiscite on vulnerable LGBTIQ youth.
As a High Court challenge looks set for the government’s proposed postal vote, Drummond Street Services – who provides counselling and support to Melbourne-based LGBTIQ people and their families – warn of the potential suicide risk to many vulnerable Australians alongside “months of mental anguish” as the issue remains unresolved.
“Once again a plebiscite is put forward without any real consideration or understanding of the impacts. It encourages hate, vilification, on-line bullying and sanctioned hate speech,” said Drummond Street Services CEO Karen Field.
“Imagine what $120 million could do if it was allocated to youth mental health, recognising that suicide rates are on the rise and LGBTIQ young people and their families carry this burden in disproportionate numbers.
“Wait lists continue to extend for months, with our practitioners having to respond to young people in immediate danger of self-harm or suicide.
“When politicians weigh in to this debate, or when articles appear in the paper, we experience a spike in calls – as well as posts on our social media – from distressed young people and their worried families.”
Ms Field added research around the globe – and within the Melbourne based agency – showed the LGBTIQ community were at a “greater risk” of health indicators including mental health”, were less likely to reach out to mainstream services, and absorbed the messages around marriage equality on a deeply personal level.
“Young LGBTIQ people are listening to politicians and social commentators and it is causing immeasurable distress to them,” she said.
“Our leaders have a responsibility to these vulnerable young people and, like all adults, they need to think carefully about where their words land, and what damage they can do.”
Earlier today, the Senate failed to reach a majority vote on holding a second plebiscite on the issue, triggering the Coalition’s plan for a non-compulsory, legally non-binding postal vote.
Ballot papers are expected to be posted from September 12 with voters given until November 7 to return their ballots and a result declared on November 15.
If there is a majority "yes" vote in the $122 million poll, the parliament would debate and vote on a private member's bill to change marriage laws in the final sittings for the year.