As his home town of Newcastle grappled with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Taryn Dorrough was having a personal battle with his mental health.
- Research suggests LGBT people are experiencing depression at high rates during COVID-19
- Health services often fail to meet the needs of transgender people
- Experts say an investment in the right support would be the best help
“I struggled to get out of bed and would then struggle to have a shower and get ready. I found myself tired a lot of the time, and just lacking motivation to get anything done,” he said.
The recent university graduate said his job prospects and social life evaporated.
His existing disordered eating worsened, and he found it difficult, as a trans man, to access critical health services.
“I have to go out and get my medication, and then have to go to my doctor to get my injection, and I have to go and get a blood test. And during a time when I didn’t really want to be out of the house unnecessarily. It just added more anxiety to everything else,” he said.
Several months into the pandemic, Mr Dorrough said he struggled to see a future.
“I was thinking about it for several weeks, it wasn’t just a spur of the moment thing.
“I got to that point where I was thinking about attempting, and I nearly did.”
Mr Dorrough admitted himself to hospital.
“It was a really good turning point because my brain finally clicked,” he said.
“I went, yeah, I need to make this effort to get better.”
He said his mental health has improved a lot since the experience, although the ongoing pandemic was still making planning for the future more difficult.
“I’m feeling a lot better, a lot more positive,” he said.
Trans people experience high rates of depression during the pandemic
A recent study from the University of Melbourne found transgender Australians have experienced thoughts of suicide or hurting themselves at disproportionately high rates during the pandemic.
“This is significantly higher than the general population.
“It’s really shocked us into doing something urgently and taking some urgent action.”
The researchers surveyed more than 1,000 transgender people during the pandemic and found 61 per cent experienced clinically significant symptoms of depression.
More than one in 10 reported feeling unsafe or afraid at home.
“There’s a significant amount of research and anecdotal evidence that the trans community is marginalised in many respects,” co-author Sav Zwickl said.
“Difficulties gaining employment, maintaining employment, rejection from family, physical violence, verbal abuse, yet still struggling with those basic aspects of respect.
“To know that so many people are struggling — it’s incredibly difficult. It’s been incredibly difficult being a researcher who is also part of the trans and gender diverse community. And to know there’s limitations on what can be done at the moment.”
The research also highlights poor access to health services and a lack of specialised LGBT and transgender services.
Government mental health funding ‘overlooks’ LGBT Australians
Nieves Murray, who is the head of Suicide Prevention Australia, said the unique needs of LGBT people are often overlooked.
She said the Federal Government’s increased commitment to mental health was welcome — but that more needed to be done.
“What we need to do is understand the needs of people who are LGBTIQ, and make sure that we’re investing wisely to support those people, whether it be through peer support, through training for frontline services, all those sorts of things.”