For many LGBTQ+ people, sharing how we’re feeling or the challenges we are going through can be daunting.
We may fear stigma or discrimination from services and/or professionals, or that our gender and/or sexuality will be revealed to people without our consent. We might share with someone who just can’t understand or offer the help we need. With all of that in mind, it’s important to access services that do provide affirming LGBTQ+ care whether that is crisis support or longer-term counselling.
Knowing and communicating how you feel and what you need is a part of advocating for yourself. Having a safety plan written down can help you communicate your needs when you may be too overwhelmed to speak.
If possible, take someone you trust and understands your situation with you to a crisis service or if you’re visiting a clinical community service for support.
On this page below we have provided some guidance on the different types of services available and the professionals you may encounter or be referred to.
On the Services page there is up-to-date information on what to expect and if there are specific LGBTQ+ programs available.
Crisis support lines
Most people are familiar with crisis support lines like Lifeline. They are usually staffed by volunteers who are trained to speak to people in crisis with supervisors on standby. However, it is possible they will alert emergency services – usually police – if you mention a plan to end your life or are at significant risk of harm. They are free and usually operate 24/7. Online chat is also available if you don’t feel comfortable speaking. Select the ‘24/7 Service’ tag on the Services page for more.
QLife offers peer support for LGBTQ+ people during Monday – Sunday 3pm – 12am.
Mental health services
ACON provides free (or very low cost) and confidential counselling, care coordination, peer support and home-based care services to people living with HIV and their families, and LGBTQ+ people.
The NSW Mental Health Line offers 24/7 phone assistance and referrals to mental health services near you.
You can also access short-term care through your regular GP and receive a 10-session Medicare eligible mental health plan. This usually requires your GP’s knowledge of your medical history.
Safe havens are non-clinical spaces for people experiencing suicidal crisis. They are staffed by peer support workers with lived experience of suicide, and clinicians. There are safe havens in most NSW local health districts.
Suicide Prevention Outreach Teams (SPOT) help people who are in distress, suicidal or at risk of self-harm. SPOT is a mobile service and can come to you. A person in need of help can speak to a peer worker with lived experience of suicide or to a mental health clinician.
Peer support is support from a person with lived experience of suicide and/or mental health distress. Peer support is also sometimes provided by people with a shared experience of life such as HIV and trans peer support.
Safe havens, Alt2Su Groups, SPOT, the Way Back Support Service and LGBTQ+ run organisations offer peer lived experience support for people who are experiencing suicide. Select the ‘Peer led’ tag on the Services page for more.
Guide to professionals
Health professionals can support you in different ways. Knowing what they offer and what to expect is important. Mental health support line workers can also discuss your options with you.
You may already have a good relationship with your GP and feel like you can trust them when disclosing feelings and thoughts of suicide. GPs can offer you guidance to find the right support services but finding a GP who offers affirming care and is LGBTQ+ friendly can sometimes be difficult. It’s a good idea to call ahead and ask if they practice inclusive and affirming care, you can also speak to ACON’s support services or visit TransHub to help you find a GP who is right for you.
Psychiatrists are specialist medical doctors who can assess and prescribe medication. Often, there are fees for every visit unless they are a service that is part of a clinical or hospital setting. You can access consultant psychiatry through Primary Health Networks and the Black Dog Institute via GP referrals, and through telehealth company, Dokotela. Usually, people speak with a GP, psychologist, counsellor or clinical social worker first to assess whether psychiatric support is needed.
Psychologists are trained to treat a range of mental health concerns, usually through talk therapy and by using specific therapeutic approaches. You can see a psychologist with your 10-session mental health plan. It is important to keep in mind that just like any relationship, you may not gel with the first or second psychologist you meet. You can always “shop around” for one that you trust with your mental wellbeing.
Counsellors are talk-based therapists, and a good choice for long term ongoing care. Often, they provide ways to build resilience, emotional regulation and coping strategies.
Social workers can help with counselling and specialise in assessment to create a more holistic view of your needs. They provide practical, goal-oriented support, and assist you in navigating and accessing/applying for different supports such as Centrelink, NDIS, housing, legal support etc. You may encounter social workers in hospital and clinical settings or in specific allied health care services.
Support workers can provide emotional, social and practical support. They are usually provided by an NDIS organisation once you have approached them and been assessed for NDIS support. Visit the Queerability toolkit for further information.
Peer Support Workers
Connecting with peer support can be a great option for affirming care and understanding because it is based on mutual lived experience and navigating services and systems. Read more about peer support for suicide here.