GPs key to trans suicide prevention

2 minute read

Affirming healthcare plays a protective role in keep trans people safe and healthy, mentally and physically.

World Pride is in full swing in Sydney and it’s an opportunity to highlight the importance of positive experiences of healthcare for the LGBTQI+ community.

Those positive experiences are badly needed as research shows that bad healthcare experiences can be a risk factor for suicidality, but good experiences are very much protective of mental health.

“We found that having affirming experiences within health and medical settings was a strong protective factor,” Teddy Cook, Director of Community Health at ACON, told TMR’sTea Room podcast.

“That’s an important call to action for GPs. Affirming someone within your practice is a strong protective factor against suicidality and suicide attempts, which is pretty motivating.

“I think sometimes we get a little bit overwhelmed with the idea of what affirming someone means. It really just means recognising someone for who they are, and respecting that. It doesn’t have to be more complicated … really hearing who they are, and then responding to that appropriately makes a massive difference. It really does.”

That doesn’t mean flying a rainbow flag in your waiting room is enough, however.

Natalie Amos, a research officer at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University, was a co-author of the research.

“We’ve heard participants say they tried to access healthcare that said it was inclusive, but [the practitioners] ‘knew nothing about how to treat or affirm my identity’,” she told TMR.

Research, notably, does not support that being trans is in itself a risk factor for suicidality, but that discrimination, harassment and assault are.

There is no lack of training available for GPs who are interested in providing trans and gender-affirming care.

“There is certainly lots of training available, more is coming, and it’s about making sure that GPs are aware of it and where to access it,” said Teddy Cook.

“The data from our paper tells us unequivocally, that when people can have a good experience within a healthcare setting of inclusive and affirming practice there are better outcomes … and are able to have a higher quality of life, move through the world in a safe, affirmed way and feel respected as who they are.

“A GP has a key role in all of that.”

You can listen and subscribe to the show by searching for “The Tea Room Medical Republic” in your favourite podcast player.

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