[Note: this Mental Health Forum was convened as an emergency response to the ABS Postal Survey on Same-Sex Marriage]
JCCV working to improve inclusion and reduce mental health tragedies for our LGBTI community members
Last night, about 40 community members, organizational leaders, mental health experts and service providers, including at least seven Orthodox Rabbis, attended a very informative and moving Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) LGBTI Mental Health Forum.
The Forum heard from speakers and panelists from SANE Australia, Headspace, Jewish Care Victoria, Keshet Australia, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria and Hatzolah. Community members and professionals also shared relevant anecdotes and personal stories.
JCCV President, Jennifer Huppert stated, “It is most important at this time while the community is enduring a divisive and emotionally damaging same sex marriage debate, that we focus on respect, inclusion and avoiding creative havoc with the mental health of vulnerable members of our community, in particular our LGBTI youth.”
Apart from sharing the terrible statistics for mental health problems and suicide rates for the LGBTI community, and especially our youth, speakers described many of the problems faced:
- Lack of support
- Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia
- Isolation and alienation
- Public abuse
- Physical abuse
- Loss of family and community connections
Which all can lead to self-harm, depression, and worse.
Young LGBTI youth face a FIVE times higher risk of suicide compared to non-LGBTI youth.
Rabbi Daniel Rabin, President of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria spoke about inclusion and the need for Rabbis and other community leaders to be welcoming.
Rabbi Rabin stated, “We are all members of the community, like letters in a Torah scroll. If one is missing, the whole is invalidated.”
“As one of my LGBTI congregants with young children said to me, ‘What make me comfortable to attend the Synagogue and its activities is because I don’t feel judged when I participate”
Speakers spoke about the importance of family and community support, and issues of coming out.
Medical practitioner and mental health advocate Dr Dov Degen stated, “I hope for a future where we won’t have to come out as gay or straight. We will just be able to say, “I am me”, and that will be enough.”
Orthodox Psychologist Zipporah Oliver OAM aligned the discussion with Orthodox Jewish values and said that we should remember to focus on:
– Saving a life and minimizing harm
– Loving a fellow Jew
– Chessed – Kindness
The panel of speakers highlighted steps that families and community leaders needed to take to improve mental health outcomes and prevent serious damage, included:
– Be welcoming:
– Accept difference
– Support the vulnerable and those struggling
– Refer to appropriate service providers
– Don’t be judgemental
– Provide an inclusive environment
– Must name and address mental health problems
– Must have the conversations
– Must be careful in your language and display understanding and empathy.