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The VICE Guide to the Postal Plebiscite

Australia's Same Sex Marriage Survey Had an Awful Mental Health Impact

Youth mental health organisations say they've been overwhelmed by demand for their services.

by Katherine Gillespie
13 November 2017, 12:27am

Image via Shutterstock

We were all warned that any form of marriage equality plebiscite would have severely negative mental health effects for LGBTQI Australians, but new figures show that even the worst fears of mental health providers and queer advocacy organisations have actually been exceeded over the course of the same sex marriage survey campaign. Having an entire population debate whether or not you deserve basic legal rights over the course of two long months, it turns out, is extraordinarily damaging.

Government-funded mental health organisation ReachOut Australia has reported a startling 40 percent surge in the number of young gay people using its resources to seek help since the survey was announced back in September. This is a substantial increase from the 20 percent surge that the organisation reported two months ago, which was correlated with similar reports from organisations like Headspace and the Black Dog Institute.

ReachOut chief executive Jono Nicholas told Fairfax that the survey had done "indisputable harm" to vulnerable young people, and his organisation had been stretched for resources as a result.

"ReachOut has seen firsthand the survey's dark side as we're the first stop on the frontline for young people who don't know where to turn or are reluctant to seek help face-to-face, particularly LGBTQI Australians," he said.

"We need answers from the government now more than ever on how they plan to support frontline mental health organisations like ReachOut to heal the mental scars that will remain long beyond the result."

Nicholas also expressed concern for the inevitable fallout from either a “Yes” or “No” win when survey results are announced on Wednesday morning, worried that LGBTQI people would face hate either way.

Although 80 percent of Australians voted in the survey, its results are non-binding. So there’s still uncertainty about what a “Yes” result could mean—although Malcolm Turnbull has promised to legislate swiftly in the event of a positive result. The Liberal party is currently divided over two different equal marriage bills, only one of which has ALP support.

If you’re struggling in the lead up to the survey result announcement or afterward, you’re not alone:

Headspace
Lifeline
Kids Helpline
ReachOut

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