Doctors: Referendum loss a serious blow to Taiwan LGBTQ mental health

Concerns have been raised over individuals expressing the desire to commit suicide after Saturday's referendums

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Anti-equality protestors in Taipei

Anti-equality protestors in Taipei (By Wikimedia Commons)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Psychiatrists have expressed concern over the mental health of the LGBTQ community after witnessing individuals say they want to commit suicide in online messages.

Late Saturday night (Nov. 24), it was announced the anti-equality camp had scored a win by no small margin, and that referendums 10 (Do you agree that Civil Code regulations should restrict marriage to being between a man and a woman?) and 12 (Do you agree to types of unions, other than those stated in the marriage regulations in the Civil Code, to protect the rights of same-sex couples who live together permanently?) passed, while referendum 14 (Do you agree that the Civil Code marriage regulations should be used to guarantee the rights of same-sex couples to get married?) was defeated.

This came as a huge disappointment to the pro-equality camp, who exerted enormous efforts to push for equal rights under the law and dispel campaigns of misinformation from right-wing groups about the outcomes of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Experts suggest the referendum results have given way to much deeper problems than legal dilemmas, however.

Psychiatric doctor and Chairperson of the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, Chih-yun Hsu (徐志雲), said to CNA that many within the LGBTQ community feel they are likely to face a lifetime of discrimination. He added that the referendum results have come as a serious blow to vulnerable groups, especially those lacking resources and those unable to come out.

Hsu said the landslide victory of the anti-equality campaign has caused many to feel, “There are millions of people in society who deny my existence.” Witnessing the huge amounts of money and manpower put into spreading misinformation and inciting public moral panic about the LGBTQ community has caused tremendous suffering, he added.

Hsu, who practices at an LGBT consultation clinic at National Taiwan University Hospital, said he often sees patients come in after their family relationships break down post-coming out. He commented that many suffer from serious anxiety and depression, and some began to question the value of their existence, even expressing plans to commit suicide, around the time of the referendums.

It is necessary to continue social dialogue and communication with everyone around you, Hsu stated, in order to create a friendlier environment. He expressed hope that affected individuals can find companionship to help get them through the hard times. He added that allies should continue to show their support vocally or through wearing rainbow accessories, and that hugs are always a welcome source of warmth.

Deputy Director of Equal Love Taiwan, Chu-yuan Teng (鄧筑媛), also expressed concern at the number of people reported to have lost contact after the referendum, and those suggesting they want to commit suicide online. Although the referendum results are not ideal, the active care of friends can help people feel they have someone on their side, they added.

If you think someone you know may be planning to attempt suicide, mental health charities recommend you try to talk to them about their feelings by asking open-ended questions, giving them time to answer, taking them seriously and trying not to judge or blame them for anything they say. It may also be useful to remove things they could harm themselves with; particularly if they have mentioned specific tools before.

Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association provide resources for the LGBTQ community and offers hotline services on certain days of the week—including a special line dedicated to parents of LGBTQ children. More information, including contact numbers, can be found on their official website.