Counsellors Supporting LGBTIQA+ Individuals

rainbow flag representing the LGBTIQA+ diversity

May 17 is International Day Against LGBTQIA+ Discrimination, and marks the day that homosexuality was removed from the World Health Organisation’s register of diseases in 1990. With same-sex marriage only legalised in Australia in 2017, the challenges the LGBTQIA+ community face are still ongoing and require acknowledgment, advocacy and support.

Being queer often means living outside the bounds of what is often termed ‘normal’, exploring sexualities, loves, genders and lifestyles that are not well-understood by some societies. Coming out as queer can be both one of the hardest and most joyful periods of a person’s life, as they are able to live fully as themselves in their gender expression or sexuality.

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community have historically been subject to discrimination, homophobia, transphobia and violence, with government and police often the source rather than the intervener. Same-sex marriage laws and reforms to outlaw conversion therapy and other harmful practices that target LGBTQIA+ individuals have moved the dial towards a more welcoming and inclusive society, but there is still work to be done.

Three out of four LGBTQIA+ people report experiencing a mental disorder at some point in their lives, according to ABS data, compared to two in five heterosexual individuals. Suicide and self-harm rates are also much higher in the queer community, and reflect the importance of affirming and safe mental health practice in allowing people to live fully as their whole selves.

For queer, trans and gender diverse youth, the political conversation today can be extremely damaging to an individual’s mental health, with debates around the validity of some identities particularly harmful and unnecessary. Rates of mental ill-health reflect this, with queer youth reporting extremely high on suicidal ideation and other markers of mental health in surveys, but crucial national data not available due to exclusion from the census.

Supporting LGBQTIA+ people through such challenges is therefore absolutely crucial, and finding a mental health practitioner that is queer-friendly can sometimes be difficult. The Australian Counselling Association is dedicated to creating an inclusive and affirming environment for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

Speaking to a registered counsellor can provide a supportive and non-judgemental space where

individuals can explore their experiences, process emotions, and develop coping strategies to deal with tough times.

The ACA’s Find a Counsellor directory can be used to filter for counsellors that specialise in LGBTQIA+ or trans affirming practice, to find and foster safe spaces where members of the queer community can seek support without fear of discrimination or judgement. ACA emphasises empathy, confidentiality and inclusivity to all its members and their clients, and supports LGBTQIA+ people to be their whole selves.

The queer community will always exist through heartbreak and triumph, but as with any collective effort, it requires community support.

Speaking to someone about your mental health can make a massive difference in moving through trauma, anxiety and difficult times and help you towards shining in the fullness of your being.

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