Gender identity and mental health

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An Australian-first La Trobe University study of gender diverse and transgender young people has revealed high rates of depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety.

The beyondblue-funded report – From Blues to Rainbows – found that half were diagnosed with depression and two thirds had experienced verbal abuse. However, the report also highlighted that parental, peer and school support can make a huge and positive impact to that young person’s wellbeing.

Lead author La Trobe’s Dr Elizabeth Smith said almost all of the 189 young Australians surveyed had
experienced abuse because of their gender diversity, ranging from verbal threats to physical violence. One fifth had experienced physical abuse, and 90% had thought about suicide in response to that experience of physical abuse. The street (40%) and school (38%) were the most common places for threats and harm to occur.

Dr Smith said that the survey results highlighted how support from parents, peers and teachers was a major protective factor in their wellbeing.

“Where participants had support from their parents, they were half as likely to be diagnosed with depression and more likely to seek professional help if needed. Mental health was also significantly better if peer, teacher and school relationships were positive,” she said.

beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said it was deeply troubling that gender diverse and transgender young people experienced such high rates of abuse at an age and stage when many young people were exploring their identity and sexuality.

“Teachers, parents and kids themselves should learn from this research and support gender diverse and transgender young people, before they reach a point where they experience depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts. beyondblue will be drawing upon this research to shape and expand our future work with transgender and gender diverse communities,” she said.

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The report also found:

  •  66% of participants had seen a health professional for their mental health in the past year
  •  38% had suicidal thoughts and a quarter had spoken to a medical professional about it
  •  One in three did not feel supported by their family and suffered much higher rates of stress, suicide and depression
  •  45% were diagnosed with anxiety compared with an average 25% of the population
  •  66% had experienced verbal abuse due to their gender identity
  •  62% had participated in some form of activism (e.g. participating in a march) which was a protective factor

The findings will be presented to policy makers and schools to suggest better supports for gender diverse and transgender young people and to educate teachers and parents, whose influence is crucial to the young person’s mental health and wellbeing.

(Source: La Trobe University)

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Date Created: October 4, 2014