Lean on Me

Cartoon design of a group of diverse people with rainbow accessories and gender-non-conforming presentation, standing in a line with their arms on each others' shoulders

Exploring suicide prevention and mental health-related peer support in Melbourne’s LGBTQ communities


Shane Worrell, Adam Bourne, Andrea Waling

Lean on Me demonstrates that the responsibility for providing suicide prevention in LGBTQ communities in Melbourne frequently falls on peers with little or no training in responding to a mental health crisis. This ARCSHS report, funded by North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN), explores how LGBTQ individuals experiencing mental health concerns turn to their peers. Those being leant on provide crucial support. In some cases, they very likely save the lives of their fellow community members. Providing informal mental health-related support, however, can impact on a peer’s own wellbeing, even leading to burnout. This report highlights a need for strategies to reduce levels of mental ill health in LGBTQ communities and ensure that informal support roles are sustainable.

This research report demonstrates that suicide prevention and mental health-related peer support is extensive and vital in LGBTQ communities in Melbourne. Such informal support can involve a person being there for a friend, partner, colleague or even stranger during a mental health crisis, including when they are suicidal. This study draws from data collected in qualitative interviews with 25 people living in metropolitan Melbourne, Australia, and identifying as LGBTQ. Participants were sourced from a quantitative survey of 326 people run in conjunction with this study. The Lean on Me survey also focused on mental health-related support provided by LGBTQ peers.

Download the report here:

Lean on Me Report (PDF 0.9MB)

Lean on Me Executive Summary (PDF 0.5MB)

View the launch

Associated publications

Researchers at ARCSHS are working on several more academic publications from the Lean on Me project. They will feature here as they are published.

  • The Nature and Impact of Informal Mental Health Support in an LGBTQ Context: Exploring Peer Roles and Their Challenges
    This journal article explores how friends, housemates, partners and peer leaders are among the people providing crucial mental health-related informal support to fellow LGBTQ community members.

    Worrell, S., Waling, A., Anderson, J., Lyons, A., Pepping, C. A., & Bourne, A. (2022)
  • Coping with the stress of providing mental health-related informal support to peers in an LGBTQ context
    Community members being ‘leant on’ engage in self-care practices and seek help from their communities to cope with the stress of their support roles. Participants’ ways of coping, even when similar, can vary in effectiveness and often come with limitations. We conclude that LGBTQ people providing informal support to peers should be better assisted to do so, in ways that acknowledge the diversity of support provided in LGBTQ communities.

    Worrell, S., Waling, A., Anderson, J., Lyons, A., Fairchild, J., & Bourne, A. (2022)
  • 'It feels meaningful': How informal mental health caregivers in an LGBTQ community interpret their work and their role
    Many members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, and queer (LGBTQ) communities provide informal mental health support to peers. This type of support is valuable for people who receive it – even helping to prevent suicide. It is also meaningful to those who provide it. In this article, we focus on how LGBTQ people derive meaning from their experiences of supporting peers. Providing informal mental health support to fellow community members recognise their roles as meaningful in three main ways: in terms of self, relationships and communities. It is useful to understand this meaningful work in an LGBTQ context as caregiving that challenges gendered and heteronormative assumptions about what care is, and who provides it. Worrell, S., Waling, A., Anderson, J., Lyons, A., Pepping, C.A., & Bourne, A. (2023)


North Western Primary Health Network text logo, with the letters 'phn' 'North Western Melbourne' and 'An Australian Government Initiative

Lean on Me received generous support from North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN)