When you look at the latest annual report from BeyondBlue, it soon becomes obvious the organisation has engaged in some heavy lifting with its partner networks to get the mental health message out there. Whether it’s neo-natal, indigenous, or rural mental health, BeyondBlue has been almost relentless in its efforts to reach groups who are at risk. Except one.
Just under 12 months ago, BeyondBlue commissioned Latrobe University to do a summary of the current research on Same Sex Attracted ( SSA ) people, and how they were travelling with their mental health. SSA is an umbrella term, and basically covers people who identify as not straight. The results are very, very confronting.
The “Feeling Queer And Blue” research summary is a litany of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. The full report is available from the BeyondBlue website, but suffice to say that when you have 17% of women who are not straight wanting to suicide sometime in the last six months versus 2% of straight women over the same period, something is busted.
Chaired by former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, BeyondBlue is funded from three main sources: the Commonwealth provides some $9.2 million dollars a year, the States and Territories another $6.1 million and donations total another $7.8 million dollars per year.
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The bulk of the corporate funding — just on $5.2 million — comes from the Movember Foundation with its Grow-a-mo competition. An astonishing amount, when you consider it has only been in full swing for a handful of years. BeyondBlue makes a point of not only refusing donations from pharmaceutical companies, but also only directing funding where the research says it should be spent.
To their credit, BeyondBlue have been quoted recently as saying that SSA is “going to be a priority area” for the rest of their current funding round which runs until the end of 2010.
The problem is that the research summary was only instigated after some agitation by the SSA communities, and even though the research was delivered in late 2008, it was only after enquiries by The Sunday Age and significant ‘arm twisting’ by health activists, that the summary was made public last week.
Not surprisingly, the broader community has high expectations of BeyondBlue. The organisation has committed board members and ambassadors with significant intellectual horsepower, a high public profile and funding to match.
Victorian Health Ministers Lisa Neville and Daniel Andrews will also be keen to see BeyondBlue rectify this glaring anomaly, after all it is they who are responsible to the community, and have to explain why Victoria is providing more funding than all the other states and territories combined.
Whatever has been the relationship, or lack thereof, between the SSA communities and BeyondBlue in the past it’s time for a rethink. When you are in a hole, and SSA mental health is, everybody needs to stop digging and put down their shovels.
Whether it’s partnering with JOY 94.9 FM, the not-for-profit radio station during mental health week in October, or joining with the Midsumma or Chillout festivals, the opportunities are there in spades.
Similarly, the award winning ‘Wayout’ diversity project run out of Kyneton in rural Victoria, twice refused funding by BeyondBlue for no reason, should be given priority consideration if BeyondBlue is serious about SSA youth and depression.
Funding for the transgender community is non-existent, an outcome that is simply unconscionable given this cohort’s mental health statistics.
If the BeyondBlue board can channel Hillary Clinton, and successfully hit the reset button on the organisation’s relationship with the SSA communities, we will get a dramatic reduction in our youth suicide rate and only then will the organisation will be able to truly say it is THE national depression initiative.
Rob Mitchell is on the Victorian Government Governance & Inclusion committee.