Killing us softly, so softly

Suicide.  Frightening, complex, social phenomena which merits sound, evidence based, community responses.

So when this Government announces they have a new plan, it should be great news.  The Plan aims to:

  • address the impact of suicide on families, whānau and communities by strengthening support for family, whānau and communities
  • build the evidence base, specifically around what works for Māori and Pasifika
  • extend existing services, specifically addressing geographical gaps in the coverage of services
  • strengthen suicide prevention targeted to high risk populations who are in contact with agencies.

The problem is, every single one of those aims is applicable to the queer* community, and we are not mentioned once.

We are not mentioned once, even though just last year as part of the last suicide prevention plan, the Ministry of Health released a needs assessment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, to provide the Ministry with “information to develop an appropriate policy and funding framework” for mental health promotion.

Queer* people are much more prone to mental health struggles, much more likely to self-harm, and much more likely to try to or actually kill ourselves.  The reasons are simple – homophobia, biphobia and transphobia teach us to hate ourselves, and the world around us tells us how we live and love is not ok.  Or, as the policy wonks put it:

“It is readily acknowledged in the literature that the mental health of GLBT people is impacted by repeated exposure to a wide range of psychosocial stressors associated with anti-GLBT attitudes and behaviours, which include stigmatisation, discrimination and violence.”

Yet we are not mentioned once in the brand spanking new Suicide Prevention Plan.

Young people are mentioned – but not same or both-sex attracted young people, half of whom self-harm, and a fifth of whom will try to kill themselves.

Māori and Pasifika are mentioned – but not takataapui or fa’afafine.

Addressing gaps is mentioned – but not the lack of queer* support groups, queer* specific mental health services, or training for generic mental health services in the needs of queer* people.  Not the lack of research into the needs of trans* folk, even though international research points to terrifyingly high rates of suicidality which surely merit trans* specific responses.

This silencing, this invisibilisation will literally kill us.  This tangible example of heterosexism and cisgender normativity will literally kill us.  I’m not sure what more there is to say.

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