Equality in Healthcare
The National Australian Pharmacy Students' Association (NAPSA) is a firm believer of equality for all, whether it be religious, race, gender or sexual orientation/identity. Everyday we celebrate and embrace diversity, something which NAPSA welcomes. Despite this, there are significant inequalities and disparities in health care for LGBTQI+ people, particularly with regard to mental health.
An open, accepting and equal approach to care is paramount in our society. Future generations should be raised in a world where the society is healthy, liberal and harmonious. NAPSA strives for this, and stands with the overwhelming majority of Australians in wanting a community that is healthy and harmonious, and where equality is not only sought but embraced.
For decades, the rates of suicide, depression, loneliness, substance abuse and anxiety - the main pillars of mental health disorders - have remained high for the LGBTQI+ community. The mental health of LGBTQI+ people is amongst the poorest in Australia. Between 24-36% of LGBTQI+ people filled the criteria for a major depressive disorder in 2005, which is 4-6 times greater than the general population. For transgender women (male to female), this statistic reaches almost 60%. 55% of young LGBTQI+ women, and 40% of young LGBTQI+ men are likely to experience psychological distress, compared with 18% and 7% in the general population respectively. The LGBTQI+ community are almost twice (31%) as likely to experience anxiety disorders, and more than three times (19%) as likely to experience affective disorders. A Beyondblue study conducted in 2011 showed 80% of the LGBTQI+ community experienced an anxiety attack within the previous year (Rosenstreich, 2013 ).
Unfortunately, LGBTQI+ Australians also have the highest rates of suicide in Australia, with 20% of transgender and 16% of lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians having suicidal ideations. A UK study found that 84% of trans participants wanted to complete suicide at some point in their life, and alarmingly, 50% of the Australian transgender community had attempted to do so. Same-sex attracted Australians have suicidal ideations that are 14 times higher than the general population, and six times higher amongst younger LGBTQI+ members. The average age of suicide is 16, often just before they 'come out' - be open about their sexuality - to their friends and family. Many of those that have completed suicide did not disclose their sexuality to their family, potentially faced with unacceptance from those around them (Rosenstreich, 2013 ). This is no doubt a similar, perhaps more saddening story for many Indigenous LGBTQI+ Australians. Anecdotal evidence has shown they experience more suicidal ideations than the general population and the wider LGBTQI+ community (Power, 2016).
The cause of these thoughts has been studied by many epidemiologists across the globe. One study found that the stress related to LGBTQI+ individuals was positively related to increase in cortisol levels when they were children and adolescents (Luis A. Parra). For example, in the 2004/2005 US elections, laws were amended to reflect a ban on same-sex marriage resulting in the LGBTQI+ community experiencing a 37% increase in mood disorders, 248% increase in generalised anxiety, 42% increase in alcohol abuse; and a 36% increase in psychiatric co-morbidities (Hatzenbuehler, 2010). Such social isolation can cause a detrimental effect on a LGBTQI+ member’s psychological health. This is corroborated with research finding that social isolation has a clear correlation with mental health (Richard Bränström, 2016).
“Marriage equality and the changes in legal status were an improvement for some gay men,” says Christopher Stults, New York University who researches differences in mental health between gay and straight men. “But for a lot of other people, it was a letdown. Like, we have this legal status, and yet there’s still something unfulfilled .” (Hobbes, 2017).
Promoting and striving for healthcare equality is a pathway to improving the mental health of gay, bisexual, heterosexual and transgender men and women across Australia. NAPSA strives to create a profession and community that has a noticeable support network that empowers our members to be who they are and accept each other similarly. This support network is amplified when society is equally as supportive and has everyone’s dignity and equality in mind. We are united against those with a prejudice view on different sexual orientations or identities, and to an extent of this, religions and races. To pharmacy and non-pharmacy students alike, we are proud and respect you for who you are and what you represent.
NAPSA is a proud, diverse association and we respect all members equally. We strive to provide the community - whoever they choose to love or however they choose to live their lives - with equal care, attention and acceptance. Pharmacists are uniquely placed to make a significant difference to the lives of their LGBTQI+ patients - are you with us?
If this statement has impacted you and you need to talk, NAPSA are here to listen, along with the Pharmacists' Support Service who are available 365 days of the year from 8.00am to 11.00pm on 1300 244 910.
For urgent assistance call LifeLine on 13 11 14 or head to lifeline.org.au
John Quinn (B.Pharm.Sci)
Director of Professional Development
- Hatzenbuehler, M., 2010. The Impact of Institutional Discrimination on Psychiatric Disorders in Lesibian, Gay, and Bisexual Populations: A Propspective Study. [Online] Available at: http://www.wpic.pitt.edu/education/cpsp/VIIG1%20-%20Hatzenbuehler%20et%20al.pdf [Accessed 30 May 2017].
- Hobbes, M., 2017. The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness. [Online] Available at: http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/gay-loneliness/ [Accessed 29 May 2017 ].
- Pachankis, J. E. A. G. S., 2016. New to New York: Ecological and Psychological Predictors of Health Among Recently Arrived Young Adult Gay and Bisexual Urban Migrants.. [Online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27094938 [Accessed 29 May 2017].
- Power, S., 2016. IT'S TIME TO TALK ABOUT THE SUICIDE RATES OF INDIGENOUS LGBTI PEOPLE IN AUSTRALIA. [Online] Available at: http://www.starobserver.com.au/news/national-news/its-time-to-talk-about-the-suicide-rates-of-indigenous-lgbti-people-in-australia/147614 [Accessed 30 May 2017].
- Public Health England , 2014. Promoting the health and wellbeing of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. [Online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/339041/MSM_Initial_Findings__GW2014194.pdf [Accessed 29 May 2017].
- Richard Branstrom, M. L. H. J. E. P., 2016. Sexual orientation disparities in physical health: age and gender effects in a population-based study. [Online] Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00127-015-1116-0 [Accessed 29 May 2017 ].
- Rosenstreich, G., 2013 . LGBTI People Mental Health & Suicide. [Online] Available at: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/bw0258-lgbti-mental-health-and-suicide-2013-2nd-edition.pdf?sfvrsn=2 [Accessed 29 May 2017].
- Travis Salway Hottes, O. F. J. D., 2016. Preventing Suicide Among Gay and Bisexual Men: New Research & Perspectives. [Online] Available at: https://www.academia.edu/28181008/Preventing_Suicide_Among_Gay_and_Bisexual_Men_New_Research_and_Perspectives [Accessed 29 May 2017 ].