When the QLife Australia project received funding from the Federal Government in 2013, it was a huge vote of confidence for the work of the five volunteer-operated telephone counselling services across the country at that time, that then became the partner sites for QLife. By funding the work of these five ‘Gay and Lesbian Counselling Services’, Government was recognising the longstanding work of LGBTI peer telephone counsellors as a valuable resource. The rapid growth of QLife in the last three years has proven this to be true, as QLife continues to reach futher and make a difference in the lives of many LGBTI people.
The funding pool for QLife, the Teleweb initiative, was established by Government in 2006 and is charged to support innovation and flexible mental health services for various priority populations. Other funded Teleweb services, amongst others, include Lifeline for crisis counselling, CanTeen for young people affected by cancer, and the Butterfly Foundation for people affected by eating disorders. QLife uses Teleweb funds to provide its established telephone counselling services, to continue to develop online counselling, and to provide mental health resources like the QLives short film series (check them out on YouTube here).
The intent and design of Teleweb is a perfect fit for the way QLife works. Wherever you live, whatever transport options you have, and how much you can afford are not barriers to anyone accessing LGBTI specific counselling via QLife, from anywhere in Australia. When LGBTI people’s lived experiences is considered, especially at the point of emerging identity or discovery of bodily difference, we can typically go through a very difficult time of our lives, often in complete isolation. It may not be easy to bring up matters of sexuality, gender or bodies with our loved ones who may not have any lived experiences in these areas. For many people, this isolation from others with a shared experiences may never really go away, especially if also isolated by geography, such as living outside of Australia’s capital cities or living in a hostile community. While the QLife database of services has a huge number of great local options for people right across Australia, sometimes a a call or web-chat with QLife might be the only option for some people to speak directly with someone who has LGBTI-related lived experience and can better understand where they are coming from.
Issues of connection, stress, wellness and depression are affecting people of all walks of life, not just for LGBTI people. Mental health services across Australia are facing unprecedented demand, and this shows no signs of stopping. It is in this context that the Government is currently reformulating intentions for the whole of mental health funding to be more responsive to this emerging need. The early policy direction of Government, via the Mental Health Commission’s recent review, indicates that Teleweb services will be highly valued as a cost-effective and geographically flexible way to reach people in need. It’s clear that Government is keen for people with the kinds of issues that we see at QLife to stay out of the more expensive systems of face-to-face sessions with psychologists via Medicare or hospitals, and to have their mental health needs met by online and community-based initiatives. Government is increasingly of the view that keeping people in good mental health is a process of early intervention, can be peer-led and needs to be convenient and innovative.
Clearly, the future for Teleweb initiatives in Australia is positive. Our QLife partner services have been providing such services for decades, and we look forward to doing this work together for many more to come.
QLife Services: www.qlife.org.au