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beyondblue campaign targets homophobia among teens

Australian teenage boys are engaging in homophobia at an alarming rate, a new study has revealed, harming the mental health of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex youth and placing them at risk of suicide.

The findings, which show a third of teenage boys wouldn’t be happy to have a same-sex attracted person in their friendship group and a quarter think it’s ok to describe something they don’t like as ‘gay’, come as beyondblue starts a national campaign again to end LGBTI discrimination among teenagers and young men.

The Stop. Think. Respect: Left Hand campaign features a cinema ad in which a group of boys bully a left-handed teenager, calling him a ‘freak’, to highlight the absurdity of discriminating against people just for being themselves. The campaign draws an analogy between discriminating against someone because they are left-handed and discriminating against someone who is not heterosexual.

beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said: ‘It wasn’t long ago that left-handed people were routinely discriminated against, told there was something wrong with them and forced to write with their right-hand. Thankfully that no longer happens. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the discrimination faced by LGBTI people, who are still made to feel like crap just for being themselves.

‘Research shows young males hold more homophobic attitudes than the general public and this latest study shows that, no matter what other gains have been made for LGBTI people, homophobia remains common among teenage boys. This is particularly concerning given young LGBTI people are already three to six times more likely to be distressed than their straight peers. If we want to reduce their distress, we must reduce the discrimination they face. We know that high levels of distress have a strong link to depression, anxiety and suicide.

‘beyondblue first launched the Stop. Think. Respect: Left Hand campaign in 2012, but there is now a new audience of teenage boys who clearly need to hear its messages. If we can change the views of these boys, it will benefit the whole community as they grow older with more informed and accepting attitudes,’ Ms Harman said.

The campaign ads will run for seven weeks in cinemas, on websites and on social media as it targets young males, with the expectation it will also cut through to the broader community. Underpinning the campaign is a study of more than 300 14-17 year-old males conducted by global marketing company TNS. It highlights the ways in which respondents view and treat same-sex attracted people including:

– One in five said they find it hard to treat same-sex attracted people the same as others.

– Six in 10 said they had witnessed first-hand people being bullied for their sexuality and four in 10 said they had seen people bullied for the same reason on social media.

– A quarter said terms such as ‘homo’, ‘dyke’ and ‘confused’ are ‘not really that bad’.

– Four in 10 either agreed that they felt anxious or uncomfortable around same-sex attracted people or did not disagree that they felt this way, while 23% think it’s ok to say something they don’t like is ‘gay’ and 38% wouldn’t be happy if a same-sex attracted person was in their friendship group.

For more information about the campaign visit www.lefthand.org.au To talk about personal issues, you can speak to trained mental health professionals 24/7 via the beyondblue support service on 1300 22 4636 or via web chat from 3pm to midnight every night at http://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support.

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