From left to right: Dr Angela Nicholas from the Centre for Mental Health, The University of Melbourne, Dr Sav Zwickl from Trans Health Research, and Leo Rhodanthe from DISCHARGED.
Content Warning: This article contains mention of suicidality and discrimination faced by the trans community.
The National Suicide Prevention (NSP) Conference is an annual conference hosted by Suicide Prevention Australia. The conference provides a space for suicide prevention experts to showcase evidence-based solutions and robust discussion, and is widely regarded as the premier event in the suicide prevention calendar.
Despite almost half of trans people attempting suicide at some point in their lives, trans suicidality has been notably absent from previous years’ conferences.
In response to this absence, Trans Health Research joined forces with Dr Angela Nicholas from the Centre for Mental Health at The University of Melbourne, Teddy Cook from ACON and Transhub, Joe Ball from Switchboard Victoria and Leo Rhodanthe from DISCHARGED to present a one-hour symposia event at this year’s conference in Canberra, during the first week of May.
Described by ACON's Teddy Cook as "one of the biggest opportunities the trans community have ever had to talk to an audience of service providers and decision-makers", the panel provided conference attendees with insight into the experiences of the Australian trans community, and the barriers faced in accessing timely, trans-affirming mental health support.
In addition to the symposia, Trans Health Research were also involved in two other trans-focused presentations at the conference, marking a significant increase in trans visibility at this annual event.
In the first of these, Dr Angela Nicholas presented preliminary findings from an interview-based study with trans people experiencing suicidality. Distress experienced through forced acute care and the lack of trans-affirming mental health professionals in mainstream services, were reoccurring themes of this research.
Trans Health Research’s Dr Sav Zwickl making a call for action from decision makers and mainstream services to better support the trans community at the NSP Conference.
In the second presentation, Dr Sav Zwickl, outlined our research into impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the trans community in Australia, including job loss, financial strain, healthcare disruptions, and elevated rates of suicidality. Many of these findings can be found in the Trans in the Pandemic Report, with more recent data to be published soon.
Sav finished their speech with a call to action:
“If you care about suicide prevention, you need to care about trans people. To all those people in the room who are decision makers, please provide more funding to LGBTI community-led organisations. If you are in a position where you are teaching or training up-and-coming mental health professionals, I urge you to advocate for the inclusion of trans health in universities. And, if you are part of a mainstream service, I urge you to advocate for better training on how to better support trans people so that they feel safe to access your services.”
Promisingly, there have been calls for the trans community to be spotlighted with a keynote speech at next year's conference, scheduled to take place in Adelaide.
It is okay not to be okay. Trans-affirming support is available, including:
There are also many localised organisations and peer support groups that can offer support or referral. Mainstream (non-LGBTIQA+ specific) services are also available, including: