Improving and supporting the mental health of people in LGBTI communities is the focus of a wide range of community events and initiatives across NSW during October’s Mental Health Month.
Mental Health Month is observed annually in October to promote the importance of early intervention practices for positive mental health and wellbeing, and reduce the stigma associated with mental health. Organised by Wayahead – Mental Health Association of NSW, this year’s theme is ‘Share the Journey’, which encourages people and communities to connect with others and recognise how important this is for our mental health and wellbeing.
ACON, NSW’s leading HIV prevention, HIV support and LGBTI health organisation, is proud to support Mental Health Month. In 2018, for the sixth year, ACON – in partnership with Wayahead – has provided support to local community initiatives with a small grant grants scheme to help increase awareness of mental health and wellbeing in LGBTI communities.
Seven grants of up to $1000 each were awarded to community groups and organisations across NSW for Mental Health Month activities and events. Among the recipients are: Rainbow Riverina Local Community Family Fund Day (Wagga Wagga); Flourish Australia Rainbow Room workshop for young LGBTIQA+ people (Broken Hill); CV Pride Community event (Grafton); Macintyre High School; Free 2 Be You guest speaker event (Newcastle); Valley Incorporated Valley Trust Camping event (Fernleigh) and; Swansea High SchoolSupport Group for LGBTIQA+ and allies (Lake Macquarie).
The events follow the Mental Health Matters Awards, held this year on 27 September at the Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney. Also spearheaded by Wayahead, the awards recognised the achievements of individuals and organisations that have worked to improve understanding, awareness, service provision and the general mental health of our communities in NSW, and officially launched Mental Health Month.
Helping to further shine a light on mental health issues affecting LGBTI communities, a new award category was announced. The LGBTI Mental Health Initiative Award, to be sponsored b ACON, will recognise efforts that improve the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTI people and facilitates access to inclusive information and services. The first LGBTI Mental Health Initiative Award will be handed out in 2019.
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said Mental Health Month provided an important opportunity to shine a light on LGBTI mental health.
“Research shows that LGBTI people are at an increased risk of a range of preventable mental health problems, including depression, anxiety disorders, self-harm, suicidal ideation and suicide, much of which has been attributed to experiences or fears of social exclusion, prejudice and abuse.
“We also know that because of stigma and discrimination, many LGBTI people are reluctant to seek professional help.
“And while we have made significant gains in LGBTI rights, the journey to equality has been difficult for many people in our communities. In fact, during last year’s debate on marriage equality, ACON saw an increase in demand for our client and counselling services. Though marriage discrimination has ended, there is still a long way to go in relation to LGBTI mental health and wellbeing.
“Mental Health Month, and the various community events and initiatives taking place around it, gives us an important opportunity to raise awareness around mental health in LGBTI communities, reduce stigma associated with mental health, and provide support to those who need it.”
WayAhead CEO Elizabeth Priestley said: “WayAhead is excited to partner with ACON in getting the mental health message out there to the LGBTI community and beyond. Our theme for this year is ‘Share the Journey’ and we are encouraging people at this time and throughout the year, to take the opportunity to tell their story. At the same time we are encouraging communities to listen and learn from others and work together to be a supportive, caring society that embraces and celebrates the life experiences of us all. We all have a story worth telling.”
Mr Parkhill commended Wayahead for their ongoing work in promoting mental health in the community, and their ongoing support for LGBTI communities.
“ACON looks forward to continuing its partnership with Wayahead, including the Mental Health Matters Awards. Together, we can continue to build our community’s wellbeing, strength and resilience.”
For more information about Mental Health Month, click here.
For more information about ACON’s work in mental health, click here.
ACON Media and Communications Manager