(As published on the Living Proud Website)
By Stephanie Lane
Living Proud is a new suicide prevention initiative for the LGBTI* community in Perth with a number of successful community involvement opportunities already completed for 2012.
From community picnics and gender diversity forums to a large presence in this year’s Pride events, Living Proud is definitely becoming a well known name within the Perth community.
Coordinated by Gay and Lesbian Community Services (GLCS), it is part of the One Life WA Suicide Prevention Strategy which has community action plans in place across the state.
According to Living Proud community coordinator Tamara Bézu, the community approach the One Life Suicide Prevention Strategy has used is a useful way to look at suicide prevention.
“Suicide prevention is everyone’s issue, it affects everyone in the community,” she said. “It’s important to be able to bring people together to discuss this, and to create safe environments where people are comfortable talking about how they feel.”
According to Ms Bézu, homophobia is still prevalent in society despite popular belief. Suicide within the LGBTI* community is still largely due to discrimination, homophobia and transphobia.
“I think there’s sometimes the perception that homophobia is going away or that it’s not really an issue anymore because people might see a lot of celebrities that are out,” said Ms Bézu. “[People] might not think about the difficulties that are faced in everyday life by people who aren’t well supported or don’t have access to the resources they need.”
Lifeline WA community engagement manager Sally Hedderwick welcomes any community groups who can provide help to those in distress.
“People phone Lifeline when they are in crisis, and anything which can be done to prevent someone reaching this stage must be good,” she said. “Research shows that we must talk about suicide – not talking about it is not working. By talking about it we can help to de-stigmatise the subject and the people who are having suicidal thoughts feel able to get the help they need.”
Edith Cowan clinical psychology PhD candidate Geoffrey Carastathis has completed a study on the resilience faced by gay men and lesbians when coming out to their family. Mr Carastathis says research shows that people are most suicidal when they first disclose their sexuality to their family.
“When you first start to realise that you’re not straight you start to doubt yourself and you start to internalise some negativity,” he said. “When you come out to your family who are some of the most important people in your life, having them reject you for your sexuality really hones in that message that being gay or lesbian is not okay.”
Living Proud has been funded until June 2013.
For further information about Living Proud and upcoming events, visit www.livingproud.org.au.
*Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender and intersex people, and other sexuality, sex and/or gender diverse people, regardless of their term of self-identification.