RANZCP welcomes ban on LGBTQIA+ conversion therapy in WA

The peak body of psychiatrists has welcomed the decision made by the Western Australia Government to ban LGBTQIA+ conversion therapy in the state.

The decision comes after the parliamentary inquiry into Esther House, a private residential rehabilitation facility in the state, released its report that revealed the facility practised conversion therapy and subjected residents to exorcism instead of providing evidence-based treatment and support to those experiencing distress.

Earlier this year, allegations of abuse and inappropriate behaviours at the Esther Foundation were reported in the media and to the Minister for Child Protection; Women’s Interests; and Community Services. Following these allegations, the Legislative Assembly referred this inquiry to the Education and Health Standing Committee to hear from affected former residents and investigate regulatory improvements that could prevent a recurrence of these kinds of events in similar institutions.

'What the residents of Esther House were subjected to is truly horrifying', said Dr Michael Verheggen, RANZCP WA Branch Chair.

'We note with immense concern the findings of the Standing Committee into Esther House. Finding ways to appropriately regulate private mental health and rehabilitation facilities is a key priority'.

The RANZCP staunchly opposes the practice of any sexual orientation change efforts and notes the dangerous impact it has on the mental health of individuals.

'Psychiatrists across the board warn that sexual orientation change efforts risk causing significant harm and trauma to individuals'.

'Practices such as conversion therapy contribute to the misrepresentation of alternative sexualities as mental disorders, and to the broader prejudice and discrimination faced by people who identify as LGBTQIA+'.

'The RANZCP has previously highlighted in its position statement on sexual orientation change efforts that there is absolutely no scientific evidence to suggest that sexual orientation can be changed'.

'People distressed by their sexual orientation should be assisted with treatment approaches that involve acceptance, support, and identity exploration'.

'The treatment should aim to reduce the stigma associated with alternative sexual identities, and demonstrate respect for the person’s religious, spiritual and/or cultural beliefs'.

'It is disheartening to see that the system failed the residents of Esther House. We must make sure that no other individual is made to feel the way they felt, from people they turn to for help, support and guidance'.

'The Government and the broader mental health system must ensure that such deplorable incidents do not occur at any other facility in the state and all patients are met with acceptance, respect and care', Dr Verheggen said.

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.

In Australia: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.

In Aotearoa New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, 1737 is here to help, for free - Mental Health. You can also contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or www.lifeline.org.nz or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or www.lifeline.org.nz/suicide-prevention.

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