Recognising LGBTQI+ communities in the National Mental Health Pandemic Response Plan

Image Credit: Daniel Quasar

The PACFA LGBTQI+ Leadership Group recently made a brief policy submission to the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC), regarding the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan 2020. The Plan, which aims to address Australians’ mental health and wellbeing needs and reduce negative impacts of the pandemic, is supported by a $48.1 million investment from the Australian Government.

The Leadership Group’s submission, co-signed by CEO Maria Brett, raises several concerns regarding the way the NMHC has presented people with LGBTQI+ lived experience in the Plan and requests an opportunity for to discuss how LGBTQI+ people’s needs can be more fully included and addressed.

Dr Gávi Ansara, Convenor of the LGBTQI+ Leadership Group, describes the concerns raised in the submission:

“Although COVID-19 has had a major impact on people across Australia, the health, wellbeing, and livelihood of LGBTQI+ people have been disproportionately impacted, including in the areas of mental health, loneliness, health care discrimination, strained family relationships, and lack of connection with LGBTQI+ communities.

Our submission addresses misuse of the phrase “life choices” to describe LGBTQI+ lived experiences, the omission of LGBTQI+ lived experiences from key sections, and the need to address diversity among LGBTQI+ populations.

We encouraged the NMHC to acknowledge that LGBTQI+ people come from all faiths, backgrounds, and ways of life, rather than living one homogenous “lifestyle”. The LGBTQI+ Leadership Group has concerns over how referring to people’s lived experience as “choices” obscures the important distinctions between sexualities, genders, bodies, and relationships. We also noted that this exacerbates existing confusion about the specific needs of these distinct, but sometimes overlapping, populations.

“Life choices” rhetoric has been weaponised by campaigns seeking to deny legislative anti-discrimination protections and can obscure the ongoing access barriers LGBTQI+ people encounter from mental health professionals and systems when seeking care.

Our submission presents findings that “life choices” rhetoric about people’s LGBTQI+ experience is strongly associated with support for discrimination on the basis of sexuality, relationship status, gender identity, and intersex status—all protected categories in Australian federal anti-discrimination legislation.”

PACFA thanks Gávi and the LGBTQI+ Leadership Group for their energy, insight and initiative in raising this important issue and we will keep members informed of the outcomes of our advocacy.

Read the full submission here.

About the LGBTQI+ Leadership Group

The LGBTQI+ Leadership Group aims to raise awareness and advocate for LGBTQI+ issues within PACFA and the mental health sector to promote best practice in counselling and psychotherapy work with LGBTQI+ people. This includes developing LGBTQI+ relevant practice resources and professional development, as well as promoting best practices and policy development that meet the needs of LGBTQI+ people. To learn more about the LGBTQI+ Leadership Group, click here.