LGBTQ peers vital for suicide prevention

A new study by La Trobe University shows the responsibility for providing suicide prevention support in Melbourne’s LGBTQ communities frequently falls on peers with little or no mental health training.

The Lean on Me report was conducted by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) at La Trobe University. The study included a survey of 326 people and interviews with 25 people about their experiences providing suicide prevention and mental health-related support to peers.

Lead researcher, La Trobe Associate Professor Adam Bourne, said the Lean on Me report shed light on important mental health crisis support delivered outside clinical settings and health services.

“In the context of exceptionally high levels of mental ill health in LGBTQ communities, as well as unique challenges accessing professional mental health services, we see that friends, partners, housemates and peer leaders are frequently stepping up to help their fellow community members when they need it most,” Associate Professor Bourne said.

“While this demonstrates a strength of LGBTQ communities, it also puts more pressure on this population. Peers report experiencing burnout, and difficulties drawing boundaries between the support they provide and other parts of their life such as work, education and relationships.

“The responsibility for so much suicide prevention and mental health crisis support should not fall on peers. Rather, community organisations, health services and mental health professionals should be adequately equipped and funded to absorb this demand.”

Findings from the report, launched today, included:

  • 90.5 per cent of survey respondents had provided mental health support to peers in the past two years
  • 60 per cent had provided mental health support for a period of five years or longer
  • 83 per cent had helped a close friend, while it was also common to help a partner (41 per cent), colleague (31 per cent), a stranger (29 per cent) and a family member (17 per cent)
  • 56 per cent had supported a peer whom they were concerned might attempt suicide
  • LGBTQ community members in Melbourne frequently lean on peers – including friends, partners and housemates – if feeling suicidal or experiencing significant mental health concerns
  • Peers who provide this vital support are very likely saving the lives of fellow community members
  • Providing support can require a significant commitment of time and energy, impacting upon a peer’s own employment, education and relationships

Lean on Me was funded by the North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) through the Australian Government’s National Suicide Prevention Trial.

Help is available, speak with someone today. Q Life 1800 184 527; Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14

Media contact: Madeline Walker l l 0403 414 248