Today at our office on William St, we at SMART Recovery and the various mental health organisations on our floor wore purple in support of the LGBTI community. Ange even came back from Melbourne with purple hair (although her hair is purple every other day as well).
First of all – in response to the post box-shaped question on everybody’s tongue at the moment – we explicitly and wholeheartedly support same-sex marriage. With the plebiscite and the repugnant, virulent homophobia cluttering up our airwaves and streets, it’s important to extend kindness and support to the LGBTI community at this juncture in Australian history.
We’re well aware that drug and alcohol issues disproportionately affect LGBTI people. Members of the LGBTI community consume drugs and alcohol at a much higher rate, and abstain from them at a much lower rate, than those outside the community. To be very clear, this does not indicate a causal relationship between same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria and addictive behaviour. Our ongoing research tells us that the primary factor in developing addictions is isolation and loneliness, and we know that feelings of isolation are highly prevalent in the LGBTI community. For example, although other minority groups (such as ethnic or religious minorities) tend to share their minority status with members of their family, this is far rarer for LGBTI Australians. We also know that childhood trauma is a huge determining factor in developing addiction in later life, and the risk of childhood trauma among LGBTI youth is staggeringly high compared to non-LGBTI population. Consider that almost forty per cent of our homeless population are young LGBTI people, and that many of them are coerced by those who would abuse children, or engage in sex work in order to survive.
Often, even non-homeless young people have difficulty discussing their sexuality and issues with their circle of peers or family members, and can turn to social media or other online communities for guidance. The ongoing heterosexism and risk of internalisation thereof for young, vulnerable LGBTI people often leads to cases of depression and isolation, particularly among teenagers. Is it any wonder, then, that rates of addiction are two to three times higher among the LGBTI community?
For this reason, we have an extremely positive, productive working relationship with ACON, VAC, and other LGBTI organisations. For any LGBTI people reading this who might be interested in attending a SMART Recovery meeting, we run several LGBTI-only meetings in conjunction with ACON and VAC, which you can look for on our website. You can also give us a ring on 02 9373 5100 and we will happily point you in the right direction. Evidence tells us that addiction in the LGBTI community is not the same as in the straight community, which demands treatment and support specific to the needs of that community.
So, with all that in mind, today we donned purple and ate some rainbow cake as a small token of our support for LGBTI people, particularly at this trying time.