More than half of LGBTQA+ young people in Canberra seriously considered ending their own life in the last year while nearly 30 per cent have attempted suicide in their lifetime, a new survey shows.
The results have prompted new calls for mental health programs to address the needs of LGBTQA+ young people in Canberra.
The Writing Themselves In study, conducted by researchers at La Trobe University, shows more than 80 per cent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual and queer young people in Canberra were experiencing a high or very high level of psychological distress.
The study also found more than 40 per cent of LGBTQA+ young people had been verbally harassed in the last year and 57.2 per cent felt unsafe due to their sexuality at school.
Connor Winfield, 16, came out as non-binary and pansexual at the age of 13 and as transmasculine last year. While most people were very accepting, he had some difficulties at the Catholic school he was attending at the time.
"I got a lot of crap when I came out because I had cut my hair short," he said.
"I didn't feel safe using the boys bathroom and I was uncomfortable with using girls bathroom. I had to get pass to go to the only unisex disabled bathroom."
Winfield said counselling and mental health services needed to be more accessible for queer youth and that schools needed to educate people to reduce bullying.
"A lot of people think it's a choice or it's a phase ... It's not a phase."
Associate Professor Adam Bourne, the deputy director of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society and the lead investigator on report, said the data showed little improvement in the mental health of LGBTQA+ young people since the survey was first conducted more than two decades ago.
"It's incumbent upon every government, at whatever level, to reflect upon those findings and think about how we rapidly and urgently respond to that quite serious mental health crisis," he said.
"I don't want to be hysterical about it, but it is a serious concern that I feel we keep talking about but there's often very limited responses."
More than one third of 16- and 17-year-old participants had attempted suicide in their lifetime, the survey found, a rate seven times higher than the general population.
The high or very high levels of psychological distress reported by 16- and 17-year-old participants of the survey was more than three times higher than the same age group in the general population.
Among LGBTQA+ young people in Canberra, the survey found 58 per cent of 16- and 17-year-olds reported very high levels of psychological distress, compared to just 11 per cent in the general population.
More than 69 per cent of all respondents had been diagnosed with a mental health condition in their lifetime, with 54.1 per cent receiving treatment in the past year.
Almost two-thirds of participants said they had ever self harmed, while 41.2 per cent said they had done so in the last year.
More students in the ACT felt safe identifying as a LGBTQA+ person than the national rate, while 72.8 per cent of students in the ACT felt safe celebrating days of significance compared to 41.7 per cent nationally.
However, about a quarter of ACT respondents said they had been sexually harassed due to their sexuality in the past 12 months. The survey found verbal and physical harassment was most common in educational settings and in public.
Just one-seventh of ACT secondary school participants said LGBTQA+ people received positive or inclusive attention and discussion at school, while 43.1 per cent of secondary school students said they had missed school days because of their sexuality.
Education Minister Yvette Berry and senior public servants will meet with LGBTQA+ student representatives from public schools on Thursday to discuss the findings of the report.
"This research confirms that as a community there is work to be done to ensure safe and inclusive schools for all same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse children and young people," a government spokeswoman said.
When asked how the ACT government would address the issues highlighted in the report, the spokeswoman pointed to previously announced budget measures, which included extra funding for youth homelessness initiatives.
"The ACT government recognises the ongoing challenges of discrimination, violence and abuse experienced by many LGBTQA+ young people and the impact this has on their mental health and wellbeing," the spokeswoman said.
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