Legalising same-sex marriage will help reduce high rates of suicide among young people in Australia

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In Australia, same-sex attracted young people are six times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than their heterosexual peers.
from shutterstock.com

Jo Robinson, University of Melbourne; Eleanor Bailey, University of Melbourne, and Pat McGorry, University of Melbourne

Australia remains one of the last English-speaking countries in the developed world not to legally recognise same-sex marriage. If the upcoming postal survey indicates public support for marriage equality, a conscience vote will be held in parliament. If not, it’s unlikely that same-sex couples will be able to marry for as long as the current government remains in office.


Further information – Mathias Cormann on the same-sex marriage postal survey


This would be quite a harmful outcome for the health of same-sex attracted couples, who are already at higher risk of poorer mental health outcomes and suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. This is directly associated with the stigma and discrimination to which they are exposed on a daily basis.

Research shows that in countries and jurisdictions that have legalised same-sex marriage, there is a much smaller gap between the rates of poor mental health among same-sex attracted and heterosexual people. This is particularly the case with young people, for whom suicide rates have a been a significant national concern for decades.

Just this week, a national study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that 10% of 14-15-year-olds reported that they had self-harmed in the previous 12 months, and 5% had attempted suicide. Legalising same-sex marriage will go a way towards lowering suicide rates in this group, as well as across the board.

Negative health impacts where same-sex marriage is banned

Young same-sex attracted people in particular already experience feelings of social discrimination, which could increase if same-sex marriage is not legalised. Same-sex-attracted young people are roughly twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder, more than six times more likely to have thoughts of suicide, and five times more likely to make a suicide attempt than their heterosexual peers.

These inequalities are exacerbated in jurisdictions that do not support same sex marriage and where discrimination is therefore institutionally endorsed.


Read more: Why do so many gay and bisexual men die from suicide?


For example, a US study found that psychiatric disorders such as mood and anxiety disorders, as well as problems with alcohol, increased significantly among same-sex-attracted people who lived in states that banned gay marriage during the 2004 and 2005 elections. There was no such increase among people living in states without such constitutional amendments, or among heterosexual people living in those same communities.

Another US study found that sexual minority people (whose sexual identity, orientation or practices differ from the majority) living in communities that were highly prejudiced against them showed substantially elevated rates of both physical and mental illness, as well suicide. It also showed the average age of suicide among sexual minority individuals was significantly younger in these “high-prejudice” communities when compared to other areas.

Health benefits where same-sex marriage is legalised

Such inequalities – between the mental health of homosexual and heterosexual people – do not necessarily exist when same-sex couples are afforded the same rights with regard to institutionally recognised marriage. This finding persists among middle-aged men and young people.

There are positive impacts on the mental health of same-sex attracted people in places where there is marriage equality.
from shutterstock.com

In Denmark same-sex married men experienced a
reduction in rates of premature death after the implementation of a registered partnerships law in 1989. Similarly, in the United States, implementation of same-sex marriage policies has been associated with a 7% relative reduction in the proportion of high school students attempting suicide. The association was strongest among sexual minority students.

Based on figures from the Second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing this would equate to almost 3,000 fewer suicide attempts made by Australian secondary school students per year. These benefits are not necessarily attributed to marriage per se, but rather the legal right to marry. They are also not restricted to mental health, but have also been reported in terms of financial factors, physical health and health care costs.

The likely effects of a ‘no campaign’

A small number of studies have also examined the impact of plebiscites and their associated “no campaigns” on the mental health and well-being of communities. These consistently report that exposure to repeated negative messaging about same-sex marriage creates a unique form of social stress resulting in poorer psychological outcomes.


Read more: Did the suicide rate decrease during Ireland’s referendum on same-sex marriage?


While the specific impact of these campaigns on suicide related outcomes remains unknown for the time being, the relationship between minority stress, mental illness and suicide is well established. It is therefore likely that risk will increase throughout this process. Indeed, mental health and crisis support services are already reporting an increase in the rate of contacts, an increase that has been attributed to the debate currently underway.

The Australian government has given a significant amount of attention and resource to the treatment of mental ill-health and prevention of suicide, including among young people, over recent years. Yet, the institutional inequalities and the already toxic debate currently underway (despite assurances on the part of government that any debate will be respectful) will undoubtedly increase the risk of both. This risk needs to be taken extremely seriously over the coming months.


If this article has raised issues for you or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 44.


The ConversationNote: The first sentence has been amended to reflect that Australia is not the “only” English speaking developed country to not yet recognise same-sex marriage.

Jo Robinson, Senior Research Fellow, Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne; Eleanor Bailey, Research Assistant, Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne, and Pat McGorry, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The intersex rights movement is ready for its moment | The Washington Post

 

ON A MONDAY MORNING THIS PAST SUMMER, MARISSA ADAMS is telling me about her plans for the future. They are bubbling out of her as we drive to Johns Hopkins’s Bayview Medical Center in her red Honda Fit, its back seat a thicket of table legs and frames in preparation for her move to a new apartment next month. Adams, 25, wants to finish college — she has three semesters left, after some stops and starts — and go on to graduate school in psychology. She wants to be a therapist, or possibly a psychiatric nurse. And, of course, she wants to meet someone. “I can’t wait to be engaged one day,” she says not long after I climb into her car, complimenting the ring on my left hand. “I want it to happen so bad. I hate being single.” In her free time, she scrolls through dating apps, looking for women she’d like to get to know over coffee or Chinese food, since she’s not a big drinker.

▲ MARISSA ADAMS, 25

Towson, Md.

“I wasn’t used to talking about it, to being out about it. … And I was afraid that no one else’s story would be like mine.”

But before all that, there’s the reason we’re driving to the hospital today: Adams is looking for a doctor who will at least attempt to address the effects of the genital surgery performed with her parents’ permission when she was 18 months old — surgery that was meant to make her body more conventionally female, and that she wishes she’d never had.

More: The Washington Post

Basic income isn’t just a nice idea. It’s a birthright | Jason Hickel 

Every student learns about Magna Carta, the ancient scroll that enshrined the rights of barons against the arbitrary authority of England’s monarchs. But most have never heard of its arguably more important twin, the Charter of the Forest, issued two years later in 1217. This short but powerful document guaranteed the rights of commoners to common lands, which they could use for farming, grazing, water and wood. It gave official recognition to a right that humans nearly everywhere had long just presupposed: that no one should be debarred from the resources necessary for livelihood.

But this right – the right of habitation – came under brutal attack beginning in the 15th century, when wealthy nobles began fencing off common lands for their own profit. Over the next few centuries, the enclosure movement, as it came to be known, shifted tens of millions of acres into private hands, displacing much of the country’s population. Excluded from the basic means of survival, most were left with no choice but to sell themselves for wages for the first time.

More:The Guardian

Adoption reforms on the way in Northern Territory | NT News

SAME-sex and unmarried couples will soon be able to adopt kids in the Territory.

The NT News can reveal the Labor Government will have bipartisan support from the Opposition CLP when it gives notice of the legislation change in the November sittings of Parliament.

The NT is the only Australian jurisdiction in which same-sex and unmarried couples are not allowed to adopt children. South Australia was the last state to pass adoption reform in late 2016.

More:  NT News

Shortage of adopters and foster carers can be tackled if we think outside of gender norms

Research and practice knowledge tells us that that some of the most important attributes of carers are nothing to do with gender and sexuality, says Claire Brown at Community Care:

Since the 1950s, adoption agencies in the UK and America have acted as ‘gatekeepers’, deciding who is suitable to become an adoptive parent and who is not. Their decisions tend to be influenced by heteronormative and gender normative views, where the ideal family is still seen as a heterosexual couple who conform to the usual expectations of gender.

Those who identify outside of the expected norms are often seen as a second-best choice of family. As such, non-normative families are often excluded entirely, or fall to the ‘bottom of the pile’ in terms of choice of adoptive parents or foster carers (see Gailey, 2010). However, with the UK facing a constant shortage of foster carers and adoptive parents, this discriminatory approach must be reconsidered for practical as well as moral reasons.   

More: Community Care

GIST Support UK: Cardiff Conference

I spent yesterday in Cardiff, for a patients/carers meeting with GIST Support UK.

GIST (“Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumour”) is a particularly rare form of cancer, which I was diagnosed with just over three years ago.  Because it is a sarcoma, not the more usual form of cancer, carcinoma, much of what is popularly  understood by the term “cancer” simply does not apply. Because it is so rare (even most GP’s and nurses have never heard of it), it really needs to be treated in specialist sarcoma centres. For all these reasons, people who have been diagnosed with GIST are in particular need of support – to meet and hear from others in similar situations, and to keep abreast with the latest developments in research and treatment for the condition.

GIST support UK provides this support in different ways. Most obviously, it has a website which summarises the key information currently available – and lists the specialist centres with appropriate expertise in treating the condition. It also has an email Listserve group, where people with GIST can tell their stories, ask for or offer help and advice, or report on new developments from the world of science. We also host a patients’/carers’ meeting twice a year in different parts of the country, where people can get this personal contact face to face – and get reports on the best current knowledge, from experts in the field.

We do not simply sit back and receive the result of research – we also contribute to it, directly. In conjunction with the Royal Marsden, we host a GIST tissue bank, where tumours that have been surgically removed from people with GIST, are stored and available for clinical research. We also directly fund researchers working in the field, and pay for patient advocates to participate in academic conferences, contributing the voice of patient experience. It is notable, for instance, that one recent academic paper on the current best practice by leading UK researchers, included in the acknowledgements, the value of contributions by two of our leading members.

I came across the website from a Googe search immediately after my initial diagnosis. I then signed up to the Listserve group, which I have both learned from and contributed to, and have since attended three of the patient meetings, to my immense benefit. I was flattered at yesterday’s meeting to be invited to join the board of trustees.

All of this good work, inevitably costs money., for which we have an active fundraising team. I am not a great fundraiser myself, but from time to time I will be sharing information on GIST Support UK fundraising activities. When I do, please consider contributing.

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BBC – BBC Four to investigate how flu pandemic spreads by launching BBC Pandemic app – Media Centre

Today BBC Four launches the first ever life saving pandemic.

In a first of its kind nationwide citizen science experiment, Dr Hannah Fry is asking volunteers to download the BBC Pandemic App onto their smartphones. The free app will anonymously collect vital data on how far users travel over a 24 hour period. Users will be asked for information about the number of people they have come into contact with during this time. This data will be used to simulate the spread of a highly infectious disease to see what might happen when – not if – a real pandemic hits the UK.

By partnering with researchers at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the BBC Pandemic app will identify the human networks and behaviours that spread infectious disease. The data collated from the app will help improve public health planning and outbreak control.

More: BBC – Media Centre

Shortage of adopters and foster carers can be tackled if we think outside of gender norms

Paris and Berlin will reportedly reject requests for Brexit talks to move on to a possible transitional arrangement until the so-called “divorce bill” is settled, in a huge setback to Theresa May after her well received speech in Florence.

In that speech, the Prime Minister proposed a two-year transitional period after the UK leaves the EU, in a bid to break the deadlock of the negotiations.

But, according to the Financial Times, any hope of moving on to discussion of establishing a transitional deal will be effectively vetoed by France and Germany, until the question the UK’s exit settlement is fully agreed.

Source: Shortage of adopters and foster carers can be tackled if we think outside of gender norms

Theresa May’s Brexit plans in ruins after France and Germany ‘reject transitional arrangement’ | The Independent

Paris and Berlin will reportedly reject requests for Brexit talks to move on to a possible transitional arrangement until the so-called “divorce bill” is settled, in a huge setback to Theresa May after her well received speech in Florence.

In that speech, the Prime Minister proposed a two-year transitional period after the UK leaves the EU, in a bid to break the deadlock of the negotiations.

But, according to the Financial Times, any hope of moving on to discussion of establishing a transitional deal will be effectively vetoed by France and Germany, until the question the UK’s exit settlement is fully agreed.

More: The Independent

The progressive case for replacing the welfare state with basic income | TechCrunch

The argument goes that because we currently target money to those in need, by spreading out existing revenue to everyone instead, those currently targeted would necessarily receive less money, and thus would be worse off. Consequently, the end result of basic income could be theoretically regressive in nature by reducing the benefits of the poor and transferring that revenue instead to the middle classes and the rich. Obviously a bad idea, right?

This new argument has been made most notably by the White House’s own chief economic adviser, Jason Furman, perhaps after himself reading the words of Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

The problem is that those who make this particular argument are building somewhat of a straw man, not only because of the blanket assumptions they are making around a very specific tax-neutral design, but also because they aren’t publicly acknowledging just how poorly our present means-tested programs are targeted by virtue of their applied conditions, and just how unequal one dollar can be to one dollar, however counterintuitive that may seem.

More: TechCrunch