20 April 2010

Beyondblue 'incredibly neglectful'

This article from The Age newspaper by Jill Stark takes beyondblue to task over its neglect of GLTH communities and then gives beyondblue's contact details for people in trouble - isn't this called tautology??

Beyondblue 'incredibly neglectful' of gay youth
April 18, 2010

THE national depression initiative beyondblue has been called negligent for ignoring gay and lesbian young people in new guidelines to help doctors diagnose and treat depressed teenagers.

The agency's 127-page document includes just two sentences about gay adolescents, although their rates of self-harm and suicide are up to eight times higher than those of heterosexual teens.

Earlier this year, beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett told a meeting of gay and lesbian groups the organisation would do more to address concerns it had abandoned them.

In 2008, the organisation commissioned research that found that up to 31 per cent of gay people suffered from anxiety and depression compared with between 4 and 14 per cent of heterosexuals. It also found that 17 per cent of young lesbians had tried to harm or kill themselves, compared with just 2 per cent of young straight women.

But despite the seriousness of the findings, they are not included in the organisation's new treatment guidelines.

Lynne Hillier, from La Trobe University's Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, told The Sunday Age that failing to tackle the unique needs of a group at such high risk was ''incredibly neglectful''.

But beyondblue rejected the claim, with chief executive Leonie Young saying the document - the first national guidelines since 2004, to be used by doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists assessing patients aged 13 to 24 - focused on the best ways to treat depression, rather than risk factors for the illness.

However, it includes extensive information on risk factors such as sexual abuse, family conflict, trouble at school and socio-economic and ethnic background while making only passing reference to sexuality.

Ms Young said the guidelines were based on 57,000 studies from around the world and they had found little evidence to suggest gay and lesbian patients require different treatment for depression to heterosexuals.

Dr Hillier said one in five gay young people would experience homophobic bullying, and 16 per cent would be assaulted because of their sexuality. Of those who were victims of assault, 60 per cent had considered seriously harming themselves.

She said it was vital doctors were given guidance about the problems faced by young gay patients. If depressed young people were to seek advice, then ''if the therapist is basing his work on these guidelines, he's not even going to think that there could be an issue of sexuality there'', Dr Hillier said.

''Young people are not going to volunteer that information because they're living in a homophobic world which punishes them for being who they are.''

Anne Mitchell, director of Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria and lead author of the literature review commissioned by beyondblue, believed the organisation would use the findings to inform their clinical guidelines.

''We took that as goodwill that they would now take this group seriously, but it seems like it was a bit of window dressing,'' Associate Professor Mitchell said.

She added that depression was often preventable in young gay people if they were given appropriate support. But if doctors lacked knowledge on the possible causes - such as homophobia or fear of coming out - it could be hard to detect. ''[Coming out is] something that young people are … incredibly anxious about and if a person in authority, like a healthcare practitioner, names it and destigmatises it a bit, it can make a massive contribution to a young person being able to go forward.

''We hear of suicides all the time and I just get incredibly frustrated to think that something that can be prevented is getting to this stage. [The guidelines are] a real lost opportunity to throw a lifeline to a lot of young people.''

For help or information visit beyondblue.org.au, or call Suicide Helpline on 1300 651 251, or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm