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Marriage equality improves mental health

Significant new research from the US shows marriage equality legislation is associated with a reduced number of suicide attempts in adolescents.

Young Australians who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) experience significantly higher rates of suicide than those who identify as heterosexual. They also experience higher levels of depression, anxiety and general psychological distress.

It has long been suspected that discrimination, stigma and social exclusion have direct impacts on the wellbeing of the LGBTI community, and it has long been believed that excluding people from an important social construct such as marriage reinforces this.

New research, published this week in the prestigious journal JAMA, shows that legalising same sex marriage equality is linked to a significantly beneficial effect on the mental health of the young LGBTI people.

According to Dr Fiona Shand, senior researcher at Black Dog Institute and the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention, these findings provide solid empirical data that same sex marriage equality will reduce suicide.

“We know that marriage, regardless of the sexual orientation of the partners, is strongly associated with physical and mental health benefits and a lower suicide risk”

“This major research project, involving data from over 750,000 US high school students, compared the rate of suicide attempt in US States with formal marriage equality legislation and those without.”

“Results showed that States with legalised same sex marriage had a 7% reduction in the proportion of high school students reporting a suicide attempt – a significant decrease.”

“This research provides evidence that same sex marriage is an important strategy for improving the mental health of the LGBTI community in Australia and reducing the overall suicide rate.”

Black Dog Institute Director Prof Helen Christensen, says that the Black Dog Institute strongly believes that all Australians should be treated with acceptance and respect and that sex marriage equality is an important step towards achieving this goal.

“These findings strongly support the potential for new legislation around marriage equality to improve our suicide rate.”

“However, we also need more directed research to examine the effects of stigma on the mental health of diverse communities, and more importantly the types of interventions that will reduce discrimination and stigma.”

Addressing the suicide rate of the LGBTI community is a major focus for Lifespan, the integrated suicide prevention program being delivered by Black Dog Institute across NSW and the ACT.

 

Raifman, J et al. Difference-in-differences analysis of the association between state same-sex marriage policies and adolescent suicide attempts JAMA Pediatrics published online February 20, 2017. The full research article can be accessed at http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2604258

 

For more information about suicide prevention, go to www.blackdoginstitute.org.au or www.lifespan.org.au.

 

If you are in crisis and need immediate support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 .