Mental Health Experts Speak Out: 'Same Sex Marriage Needs To Be Legalised ASAP'

Image: iStock

The results of the $122 million non-binding postal survey are in - 61 per cent of Australians support a change to marriage laws that would allow equal rights to same-sex couples.

But even with this resounding "Yes" vote, health experts are warning that the psychological effects of this whole ordeal are far from over - and the law should be changed as soon as possible to minimise further harm.

Anthony Cichello is President of the Australian Psychological Society

While the outcome is welcomed, many people have been subject to physical and/or psychological abuse by the process of the debate and it is important that we work to heal the rift in our community, and particularly ensure that those directly affected by the outcomes of the vote are supported.

The APS urges that same-sex marriage be legalised by a vote of Parliament as soon as possible.


Dr Ian Cook is Senior Lecturer in Global Politics and Policy at the School of Business and Governance at Murdoch University

The yes vote was not a surprise, as it reflects the results of recent polls that showed that a majority of Australians are in favour of same sex marriage.

The real question concerns whether the result will lead to the legalisation of same sex marriage. Politicians who oppose same sex marriage, such as Tony Abbott, have indicated that they would not oppose legislation to recognise same sex marriage if the result from the plebiscite was decisive. The question that remains, then, is whether this is a clear enough result to bring them to drop their opposition to legal recognition of same sex marriage.


Dr Petra Skeffington is Senior Lecturer and Acting Head of Counselling Discipline at the School of Health Professions at Murdoch University

Psychological research links marriage to mental health benefits and highlights the harm to individuals and families that are created by social exclusion and discrimination.

Continued discrimination of minority groups will likely increase stigma and embed existing prejudices, leading to increased risk of physical and mental health issues (including suicidality) for LGBTIQ+ people and their allies.

To build a resilient and mentally healthy society, we should respect individual human rights and differences and look for ways to diminish, rather than build, avenues for discrimination.

Recognising the outcome of the same-sex marriage plebiscite and sharing celebration or disappointment will be a critical part of caring for mental and emotional health. LGBTIQ+ people and their allies are recommended to be connected with their community and social supports as the outcome is announced.

Regardless of the outcome the campaigning and public debate on this issue may have been challenging and so it is an important time to care for self and others to remain mentally healthy.


Dr Sebastian Rosenberg is a Fellow at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University and Senior Lecturer at the Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney

This outcome is a joy to all those Australians who had hoped to make loving, married family life accessible to all.

The vote is an affirmation of the Australian community’s belief in equality and a fair go for all. This is vital for the LGBTI community who have faced discrimination.

This is a community already more vulnerable to mental illness and suicidality than the general population.

I hope today’s 'yes' vote can kick-start a broader and successful effort to improve the mental health and well-being of LGBTI Australians.


Professor Mark Hughes is Professor of Social Work at Southern Cross University

This is truly an exciting moment – the result of the marriage equality survey sends a powerful message, particularly to young people. If same-sex marriage is legislated and – importantly – no new discriminations are added through pressure from conservatives, then the future looks much brighter for our LGBTI communities.

Nonetheless, even at this time of celebration it is important to remember that marriage equality is only one part of the puzzle that needs to be resolved to promote the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of LGBTI people. We need to continue to address and research the other major disparities these people face compared with the general population including: higher rates of psychological distress, anxiety, depression and loneliness among LGBTI communities, higher rates of particular physical health problems among lesbians and gay men, the extraordinarily high rates of discrimination experienced by transgender and gender diverse people, and the harmful medical practices that intersex people continue to face.

The marriage equality debate has shone a light on those in same-sex relationships, but it is important to acknowledge that many LGBTI people are not in relationships – and indeed are more likely not to be in relationships compared to the general population – and that for these people rates of psychological distress and loneliness are particularly high. Now is a time to celebrate but not to become complacent in continuing to work towards equality.


Professor Paula Gerber is the Deputy Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights in the Law Faculty at Monash University

This has been a bruising process for many in the LGBTQI community, and a process that was completely unnecessary. But we are delighted that the majority of Australians have recognised that same-sex couples have the same right as heterosexual couples to marry the person they love.

The survey has legitimised bigotry and caused great stress to many LGBTQI people, especially vulnerable teenagers and the children of LGBTQI couples.

While this is a time for celebration, our work is not yet done. Ultimately, the survey only strengthens the pressure on Parliament to do its job, which is to protect the fundamental human rights of all Australians, without discrimination. We urge Parliament to pass marriage equality into law as soon as possible.

We need to ensure that the marriage equality legislation does not perpetuate bigotry and intolerance by permitting businesses that provide wedding services to discriminate against same-sex couples. All couples seeking to marry have the right to be treated equally.

Religious organisations have always enjoyed the freedom to choose which couples they will provide wedding ceremonies for, and that freedom will continue. For example, a Catholic priest may refuse to marry a couple because one of the parties is a divorcee or because the couple is of the same sex. Religious freedom is already well protected in Australia.

Today is a day to celebrate the diversity of our country, but there is still hard work ahead to protect the human rights of LGBTQI people in Australia.

And, today, we recognise the LGBTQI people who live in 73 countries that still criminalise homosexuality, including approximately 20 in the Asia-Pacific region. We will continue our work to change these laws and realise equality for all.


Professor Patrick McGorry is Executive Director of Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health

The mental wealth of Australia has been measurably enhanced today by the historic "Yes" vote, which paves the way to remove a key source of discrimination for our LGBTIQ community.

It can be measured in thousands fewer suicide attempts each year, in a lower level of risk for mental ill health, and a greater sense of connection for LGBTIQ people with the rest of Australian society.

It is a day that should make us all proud to be Australian and a decision which revives faith in our commitment to the fair go. It’s a huge relief for LGBTIQ young people, whose transition to adult life is already a challenge and so often an ordeal. Securing an identity is a fundamental aspect of this journey, and sexual orientation and gender identity an exquisitely sensitive element. The response of family, peers and society is crucial to surviving this journey and flourishing.

This protracted national debate including gnawing uncertainty about the outcome, has taken its toll. Youth mental health services have witnessed a substantial increase in distress and need for care and support. Throughout this public ordeal, LGBTIQ young people have also demonstrated dignity and resilience.

Marriage equality when it arrives will represent preventive mental health in action as we see a long term reduction of risk for mental ill health.


Dr Michael Gannon is President of the Australian Medical Association

It is time to end the discrimination and lift the health burden from our LGBTIQ population.

The AMA clearly expressed its support for same sex marriage with our Position Statement on Marriage Equality earlier this year.

Along with the majority of Australians, as shown by today’s survey result, the AMA believes that two loving adults should be able to have their relationship formally recognised.

This is not a debate about same sex parenting or religious freedom or the school curriculum - it is about ending a form of discrimination.

There are evidence-based health implications arising from discrimination.

Discrimination has a severe, damaging impact on mental and physiological health outcomes.

People who identify as LGBTIQ experience substantially poorer mental and physiological health outcomes than the broader population.

They are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviours such as illicit drug use or alcohol abuse, and have the highest rates of suicidality of any population group in Australia.

LGBTIQ Australians are our doctors, nurses, teachers, politicians, police officers, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and they deserve the same rights as every other person.

The AMA wants to see an end to all forms of discrimination against LGBTIQ Australians.

It is now up to our Parliament to act.

We hope to see this matter resolved before the end of the year and we urge all Australians to respect the rights of LBGTIQ people, their families, and friends.

More than 25 other countries have already passed same sex legislation. Australia should join them.


Dr Katrina Jaworski is a social philosopher at the University of South Australia

Despite the opposition, many Australians contributed towards the recognition of human rights of important members of our national community.

This outcome is likely to contribute positively towards decreasing the rates of LGBTQI youth suicide in this country, which is approximately 30 per cent higher in comparison to heterosexual youth.

LGBTQI young people struggling with depression and anxiety, struggling to find reasons to live, will know today that their lives are worth living, and living without shame.

Sadly, marriage equality will not prevent so many of our young people turning to suicide. However, a YES vote is an important and much needed step in the right direction.

[Quotes courtesy of Scimex]

WATCH MORE: Science & Health News


Comments

    whats this got to do with a Tech related story ? Didn't know I was on a general news discussion site.

      It's a health story, in the science and health section.

    is this post meant to be on lifehacker ?

      Nope, this one is Giz's angle on the issue - health.

        sounds like social commentary to me

    Still finding the whole notion that democracy is harmful to be rather disturbing.

    I also feel that if the Yes campaign were truly concerned with the health and well-being of LGBTI community they would have advised their supporters to ignore the news / commentary on the issue and not participate in the campaign at all because today’s result was a foregone conclusion...

      You've got a very narrow view of the impact and reach of a very public debate.

        Hmm no I think campaigners on both sides were pretty narrow in their views. Not least for framing the issue as a debate when consistent polling numbers (as reflected in the result) show there is no debate.

        My point is, the ‘Yes’ outcome was a foregone conclusion, so anyone who has invested any time or energy in either side of the campaign essentially wasted it. It’s not like the results were surprising to anyone paying attention to the stats over the past few years.

        But hey, if acknowledging the fact that Australians are overwhelmingly progressive on social issues makes me narrow minded, call me a bigot. :)

          No it wasn't. Polls are quite narrow compared to the entire voting public (just look at the US election for proof).

          I'm glad the vote was Yes, but I think it was worth truly finding out what the numbers were. I also still think the postal vote wasn't the right way to find that out purely because the Govt can still stuff around and not actually enact legislation basically until the next election.

          On a side note, I'm not sure I'd call 60-40 overwhelming. It's a little disappointing that it wasn't a greater difference. And it also shows why it was such a controversial subject because nearly half of Australia still didn't want it. It also reinforces the likelihood that the govt will go slow because they now know that they're going to piss off 40% of their (potential) voters.

            Ah, a decisive outcome is a decisive outcome. If you’re disappointed with the result, you must have voted ‘no’. lol

            And the outcome of US election was entirely predictable. If you were surprised by Trump’s win then that indicates you are woefully uninformed and your information consumption is completely lacking in diversity...

            All the credible polls showed Trump having clear leads over Hillary throughout the course of the campaign.

            It was only polls conducted by media organisations which were far off the mark.... and that was mostly down to the fact that they skewed their results in favour of their candidate.

            The big lesson from that well documented debacle is that no matter how you cook the stats, you can’t alter the outcome. It 90% of respondents support x and you say 90% of respondents support y, 90% of respondents still support x.

              You really can't read can you? "I'm glad the vote was Yes". That would kinda imply that I voted "yes" wouldn't it? "It's a little disappointing that it wasn't a greater difference" that would imply exactly what it says. But since it's obviously not clear, I'd have liked to see more Australians standing up and saying Yes. 60-40 is not overwhelming, 70-30 or 80-20 is. 60-40 is the sort of majority that can evaporate quickly.

              As for Trump's win, like I said the polls suggested he would not win. Which goes back to the point I was making about not trusting polls because they only capture opinions from a small subset of people. A subset that may or may not accurately reflect the opinions of the rest of the country.

              Whether the polls were conducted by "credible" sources or not doesn't alter the fact that they often don't capture a large enough and diverse enough set of data to actually be meaningful.

          if acknowledging the fact that Australians are overwhelmingly progressive

          What? You said:

          the whole notion that democracy is harmful to be rather disturbing
          if the Yes campaign were truly concerned with the health and well-being of LGBTI community they would have advised their supporters to ignore the news / commentary

          What blatant ignorance.

          You cant ignore your immediate family who are bringing abusive shit back out into the open because they believe homosexuality is a "choice" and "dirt". Yes thats the conservative/religious view and we have a lot of them. You cant ignore social media. Its a goddamn communications platform thats arguably more valuable than the telephone. Especially to young people. You cant ignore the signs and banners depicting a child about to be beaten because gay is something to be feared. The list goes on.

          Last edited 17/11/17 10:17 am

            Yes you can. You can leave.

            Full disclosure: I’m not gay. But I grew up in an abusive home. I left when I was 15.

            And I needed lots of counselling and had to do a lot of work to overcome the struggles and challenges you face in life from being abused.

            So if you’re saying we should give counselling to people who have suffered abusve relationships, then I agree wholeheartedly. I can tell you first hand, counselling fees are expensive. I really could have used some extra support as a young adult. Would have made life easier. But to suggest that only certain groups of people need support, that they are somehow weaker than the general population, is very phobic.

            And man suggesting that the abuse only started because of a democratic process; you’re either really uninformed or very disingenuous.

              Sorry to hear about your situation. However you need to understand that everyone's situation is not the same. Some people cant go or just don't want to leave their family. Call it Stockholm syndrome or maybe they just love their family.

              Counseling & support services, agreed.

              The abuse already exists (never said otherwise), however it is amplified and past abuse rears its ugly head by this "debate". The debate gives abusers a platform & justification (in their eyes) to go public. I note you didn't bother addressing the myriad of ways this debate is very public. TV ads, social media, banners in the streets, all over the internet. The list goes on (ABC has a list of for both sides). All because LGBTI are literally viewed as second class citizens in the eyes of over 4.8 million Australians who now have a platform.

          FYI. What you call "democracy" also made the change to the marriage ACT without a bloody survey. They could have just as easily unmade the change within your realms of "democracy".

            Mate that’s completely unintelligible.

            Perhaps you should think about what you’re trying to say first... as it seems that you agree with me that the whole debate / survey was completely unnecessary because the “debate” has already been settled.

            So, given that you appear to agree with me, what are you arguing exactly? #confused

    The survey can only result in anger and distrust by the not insignificant 39% of voters that voted "No". Our cowardly government, instead of allowing a conscious vote spent $120 million to divide Australia.

      30% of voters - the 38% for No is of the 80% who successfuly sent their responses in, which does not include the 20% who did not submit a response

      There shouldn't of been a vote at all. Marriage equality should of been passed years ago but due to the idiot religious people in government we had to have this vote to prove to the government that enough is enough and just bloody pass the law. This all reminds me of when women weren't allowed to vote. The forward thinking people said yes but there were also sexist pricks that said no.

        I actually don't mind a democratic process for something something like this. To be honest I kinda wish we had more of a say in more major pieces of legislation. At least this makes me feel like we actually have a hand in making govt decisions. 99% of legislation just happens with bugger all impact from the people (at least on the face of it).

        I know the realities are that it'd be incredibly time consuming and cost prohibitive to check every piece of legislation by a public vote. But if they could streamline the process I'd love to see it used on major controversial issues.

    I'm pleased with the Yes vote, but it isn't going to make bigotry go away.

      Dont confuse Bigotry or dress it up for total intolerance of freedom of views.

    and the mental health of the 40% that voted NO doesn't matter?

      This is the of the PC world, our way or the highway, total intolerance for any view but their own. and hatred and violence towards those that want to express it. Bugger the 40% no one cares about that. Yet we go on and on about LIBTI for the 3% !

        The 40 percent are bigots that need to see that EVERYONE should be treated equally. The 40 percent are most likely crazy religious people that hate everyone that's not like them.

          Not agreeing with something doesn’t make someone a bigot.

          On the other hand, calling people who disagree with you bigots is a brilliant example of bigotry.

            Thanks for the laugh and yes you're correct. God i love the comment section.

          That's just not true. I hate to say it but my father voted No. When I was talking with him about it he couldn't really explain why, just that he didn't believe it was right. This is from a man who is agnostic, not racist and doesn't mind if a person is gay. But for some reason he can't get his head around the idea of gay people marrying.

          I suspect there were other people who voted No just because they are sick of political correctness and being told what to do. People who didn't really care one way or the other but hated the pressure being put on them.

          Heck there were probably some people who voted No because they feel marriage is an outdated notion and that it shouldn't exist for anyone.

          And yeah, there were undoubtedly some bigots as well. But I don't think all of the No voters are bigots.

            True. It was a blanket statement that i should of thought through a bit better. I get a bit heated when some people bring up religious reasons for hating on certain people. My mother is highly religious and i had to have her keep away from my family because she kept slipping them religious pamphlets. She even got my son baptized behind my back saying she was only taking him out for lunch. Damn i hate her and she was a real shitty mother. So glad my father divorced her and i got to stay with him.

      welcome to the world we apparently now live in, conform or be conformed, no independent thought allowed that doesn't conform with the mob.

        If by "conform with the mob" you mean complying with the law then that is the way it should be. If you are unhappy with a law then you work to change it. Again the way it should be.

        If the world is not the way you believe it should be then perhaps you should change you child-like view.

        Freedom of speech does not make you immune to consequences of that speech. I dont see you chucking a sook about not being to yell "bomb" in an airport. Your support of freedom is selective at best.

        You still have your freedoms. You can still spout illogical nonsense. And now gay couples are free to get married which does not affect you in any way what so ever.

        Funny how you think your freedom to limits others freedoms is more imporant than those wanting freedom.

          Awesome response. Would upvote a gazillion times if i could. Exactly how i wanted to respond to other people but couldn't put the words together.

      The validity of the relationships, legal status and social equality of the people who voted 'no' were not being decided by this survey. The 'no' voters did not have to spend three months wondering if they were going to be judged by their families, neighbours and co-workers as unequal in the eyes of the law. Not to mention being smeared by some of the bad-faith actors in the No campaign, who tried to pivot the argument to Safe Schools or 18C.

      However you voted, your mental health is important, and if you are distressed by the result, I urge you to take every possible step to keep yourself safe and well. Lifeline or Beyond Blue can help you, as can your church or your friends. Seek them out, and stay safe.

      But this survey did enormous damage to an already vulnerable group, and of course experts in the field have ideas on how to mitigate against that.

      Mental health ??? How is this going to affect anyone of those 40 percent ? Their life will be untouched by passing this law.

      At first I downvoted you. But you're right. They need help. Homophobia is a genuine psychological illness.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now