A depressing lack of care

This article originally appeared in Southern Star and Sydney Star Observer. Since it was written beyondblue has completely changed, and is now taking a leading role in combatting homophobia in Australia.

By Doug Pollard

Organisations that claim to serve a ‘higher power’ are apt to see themselves as above the law. Any illegality or immorality is justified because their mission is too important to be impeded by the law, or jeopardised by the relatively unimportant ‘mistakes’ of a few members.

The Roman Catholic Church and Scientology have both been accused of fitting this model. When attacked, they first pretend the problem doesn’t exist, or is insignificant, then throw the blame onto others, and paint themselves as the true victims.

The latest Vatican effort is particularly disgusting: according to the Pope’s personal preacher, attacks on the church over paedophilia are reminiscent of the attacks on the Jews by the Nazis — something the Pope may be presumed to know a good deal about.

There are signs that the self-styled ‘national depression initiative’, beyondblue, may be in danger of falling into a similar trap.

The initial symptoms are all there. When criticised for failing to address the horrendous rates of depression, self-harm and suicide among same sex attracted youth, the organisation’s first reaction was denial.

Then under pressure, mainly from Rob Mitchell, beyondblue commissioned a review of the pre-existing research, which confirmed the problem.

The responsible reaction might have been to institute an internal enquiry into how this had been missed, and the immediate deployment of resources to tackle the problem. Instead beyondblue sat on the report and only published it after sustained pressure.

It took more pressure before they called a ‘round-table’ of GLBTI representatives, at which they promised to make GLBTI issues a priority.

Now, after another lengthy period of silence come the clinical guidelines on the treatment of depression, which — apart from a single sentence — ignore depression among the sex and gender diverse community.

The guidelines are important because they form “practice recommendations for health care professionals, consumers, carers, families and friends to support and assist adolescents and young adults, aged 13-24 years … with depression” — National Health & Medical Research Council.

beyondblue says that, of the more than 50,000 studies worldwide confirming suicide rates among same-sex attracted youth at five to six times that of their straight counterparts, only one meets their criteria. Doesn’t that indicate a problem with the criteria?

Not according to beyondblue. And so with a flutter of their pretty butterfly’s wings, a mountain of evidence conveniently disappears. Along with all those inconveniently dead depressed gay teenagers.

When challenged beyondblue — with millions of dollars from taxpayers and donations — suggests that the gay community should, at its own expense, find and present evidence that does meet the criteria. By May 12.

There isn’t a hope in hell of meeting their demands. And so teenagers will continue to die for want of proper guidelines for their treatment. And by beyondblue’s standards, it’ll be our fault, not theirs.

Can anyone spell ‘homophobia’?

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)