By Graeme Paton
Stressed young LGBT teens have been feeling mounting pressure as the debate around same-sex marriage puts a spotlight on their struggles.
Kai Schweizer, a counsellor for the Youth Council of WA (YCWA), says the number of students dealing with issues of self-harm or domestic abuse has increased notably since the same-sex marriage debate became a political issue.
“About 90 per cent of kids coming to me are saying ‘this [same-sex marriage] plebiscite is making everything suck; how do I get through this?,” Mr Schweizer says.
“With same-sex marriage becoming a common topic in the media, the number of arguments queer teens have with their parents has increased.
“This is increasing the risk that these kids will be attacked or kicked out of home by their parents.”
According to a study by the University of Adelaide, people who are members of the LGBT community are at a higher risk of suffering from mental health problems, violence and homelessness.
Mr Schweizer recounted his own story of being kicked out of home when his parents discovered his sexual identity in 2015.
He spent a year being homeless and says “since homeless shelters in WA are mostly Christian organisations, many deny access to gay and transgender people with the states religious protection laws”.
The YCWA is working to combat this problem by helping LGBT teens access Centrelink programs.
Despite the struggles that the LGBT teens are facing as the same-sex marriage debate comes to a head, Mr Schweizer remains “optimistic that through [the YCWA] we will hopefully be able to overcome these dark times.”
Such issues are being addressed during the 50th annual Mental Health Week this week, during which WA Minister for Health Alanna Clohesy said the event ensured mental health was on the agenda and open dialogue continues.