A mental health carer is someone who provides support to a family member, partner or friend who is living with a mental health condition.
As a member of ACON’s ‘Welcome Here’ Project, MHCN recognises that LGBTQIA+ carers make up a significant portion of carers within Australia.
Research suggests that LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to take on a carer role, and that their caring role often begins earlier in life than people who aren’t from the LGBTQIA+ community (Carers NSW).
There are currently over 854,300 carers in NSW (Carers NSW), and between 15-30% of LGBTI+ people are currently in caring roles (Carers Victoria).
Despite this high number, around one third report that their LGBTI+ identity has affected how, when and where they can access services and support (Carers Victoria).
You don’t need to live with the person who is unwell, be the main source of care and support, or receive a payment to be considered a carer – you just need to help someone who needs care.Am I A Mental Health Carer?
Barriers Carers from LGBTQIA+ Communities Might Face
Mental health carers come from all walks of life.
LGBTQIA+ mental health carers not only experience the full range of challenges that mental health carers face, they also face additional challenges and barriers particularly relating to their identity as an LGBTQIA+ person and how it impacts their caring role.
These barriers can include:
Carers NSW National Carer Survey in 2020 shows that LGBTQIA+ carers experience the greatest social isolation out of all carer groups (Carers NSW). This can stem from feeling a lack of support in their caring role from the LGBTQIA+ community and friends, but also lack of helpful, appropriate, and inclusive services, leaving many carers unsupported and further isolated. They are also less likely to come forward and access carer supports.
Fear of discrimination means many LGBTQIA+ people simply do not access support.
Experiences of discrimination with previous supports also prevent LGBTQIA+ people from accessing support for fear of it happening again, whether it is the same service or a different service (Carers NSW).
Poor Health Outcomes
Carers and people within the LGBTQIA+ community are known to have poorer mental health than the general community. LGBTQIA+ people have the highest rates of suicidality in any population in Australia, with trans people being particularly high risk (LGBTIQ+ Australia).
Other issues such as experiencing discrimination, loneliness due to social isolation and lack of inclusive supports also add to the poorer mental health and wellbeing of the LGBTQIA+ community (LGBTIQ+ Australia).
Lack of Recognition of Identity, Experiences, and Relationships
LGBTQIA+ people can often face a unique situation of having to care for a family member or person who may not be accepting of their identity or of their relationships, therefore adding extra stress to an already stressful caring situation.
For those from the LGBTQIA+ community, it can also be difficult choosing what services and supports to share certain (and how much) information with, and sometimes they don’t want to have to have difficult conversations stemming from disclosing information about their sexuality or gender identity, or have them repeatedly when accessing multiple services. Additionally, not disclosing certain information about their identity can lead to feeling upset and uncomfortable as they are unable to share their true authentic self (Carers NSW).
Limited access to affordable inclusive services, or lack of these services
Many carers face barriers to accessing supports e.g., not being able to afford the cost, eligibility issues, accessibility issues, etc.
People from the LGBTQIA+ community can experience these plus additional barriers relating to their sexuality and gender identity. LGBTQIA+ carer services simply don’t exist, or they are few and far between. Other supports and services may not have any awareness or information about how to support LGBTQIA+ carers (Carers NSW).
Helpful Tips and Advice For LGBTQIA+ Carers
- You should be treated with respect.
- You should feel comfortable at every service and support that you attend.
- If you don’t like a service or you don’t feel comfortable, you have the right to change services.
- You can also make a complaint against the service.
- You can ask services if they have any policies and procedures in place to support LGBTQIA+ carers, and/or an inclusion policy, and if so if you can have a copy of them.
- Reach out to any friends or family who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community about what services they feel safe and comfortable going to.
- You have the right to privacy and confidentiality.
- You cannot be discriminated against at work because you are a carer.
- You can ask for flexible working arrangements because you are a carer.
- You have the right to take leave to care for family or household members.
You can read more about what your rights are at work in our ‘rights at work’ section.
You can also check out a full list of services that are a safe place as part of the ‘Welcome Here’ project.
Not all of the services on the directory offer mental health and/or support services however it is a useful starting point to see places around you that are inclusive and welcoming.
Support Services and Helpful Resources For Carers from the LGBTQIA+ Community
LGBTIQ+ Health Australia
LGBTIQ+ Health Australia is the national peak health organisation in Australia for organisations and individuals that provide health-related programs, services and research focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans/transgender, intersex, queer and other sexuality, gender, and bodily diverse people.
Minus18 leads change, builds social inclusion, and advocates for an Australia where all young people are safe, empowered, and surrounded by people that support them.
They run inclusive events, create resources, and host workplace training and school workshops.
QLife provides Australia-wide anonymous, LGBTI peer support and referral for people wanting to talk about a range of issues including sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings, or relationships.
QLife services are free and include both telephone and web chat support, delivered by trained LGBTI community members across the country. Their services are for LGBTI individuals, their friends and families, and health professionals in Australia.
Transcend Australia was founded in 2012 and was the first parent-led, national peer support network and community for parents and carers supporting their Trans, Gender Diverse and Non-Binary (TGDNB) child in Australia. Transcend runs peer support groups for parents and carers and offers a range of helpful educational resources.
The Aids Council of Australia (ACON)
Twenty10 work with people across NSW who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender diverse, non-binary, intersex, questioning, queer, asexual and more (LGBTIQA+) people and others of diverse genders and sexualities, their families and communities.
They provide a broad range of specialised services for young people 12-25 including housing, mental health, counselling and social support. For adults they provide social support and for people of all ages they offer telephone support and webchat as the NSW provider for the national QLife project.
The Gender Centre
Black Rainbow is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Sistergirl and Brotherboy (LGBQTI+SB) organisation in the
pursuit of positive health and wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lesbian
Organisation Intersex International Australia
Intersex human rights, information, education and peer and family support.
Parents Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
General Carer Supports
The following organisations offer support for all carers. You can contact these organisations for information and support.
The Family and Carer Mental Health Program
Run across NSW, this program offers free training and education workshops, support groups, social events, help with advocacy, and more.
For more info and how to access the program, check out the ‘Family and Carer Mental Health Program’ section on our website.
Head to Health
Head to Health can help you find digital mental health services from some of Australia’s most trusted mental health organisations.
Provided by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care, Head to Health brings together apps, online programs, online forums, and phone services, as well as a range of digital information resources.
Whether you are trying to improve your own sense of wellbeing, looking for help with something that is bothering you, or helping someone you care about—Head to Health is a good place to start.
For additional services, check out our ‘Carer Support Directory’.
Carers NSW, ‘Information for LGBTQI carers: Common experiences of sexuality and gender diverse carers’: https://www.carersnsw.org.au/uploads/main/Files/1.About-caring/2021CN_LGBTQI-leaflet_experiences_D1.pdf
Carers NSW, ‘Information for LGBTQI carers: Referral information for sexuality and gender diverse carers’: https://www.carersnsw.org.au/uploads/main/Files/1.About-caring/2021CN_LGBTQI-leaflet_Referral_D1.pdf
Carers NSW, ‘LGBTQI+ carers’: https://www.carersnsw.org.au/about-caring/who-are-carers/diverse-carers/information-for-lgbtqi-carers
Carers NSW, ‘Who are carers?’: https://www.carersnsw.org.au/about-caring/who-are-carers
Carers Victoria, ‘LGBTI carer facts’: https://www.carersvictoria.org.au/media/1107/lgbti-carer-facts-infographic.pdf
LGBTIQ+ Australia, ‘Snapshot of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Statistics for LGBTIQ+ People’ 2021: https://assets.nationbuilder.com/lgbtihealth/pages/549/attachments/original/1648014801/24.10.21_Snapshot_of_MHSP_Statistics_for_LGBTIQ__People_-_Revised.pdf?1648014801