From: Michael Barnett
Date: 8 August 2015 at 13:00
Subject: An urgent message about the mental health of youth in Bowman
To: Andrew Laming – MP for Bowman <email@example.com>
Dear Mr Laming
I’m writing to you regarding the issue of mental health in young people in your electorate of Bowman.
In your first speech to Parliament in November 2004 you spoke of wanting to help young Australians make a difference about the issues important to them:
Lastly, I want to engage young Australians. Our young Australians out there still do not have the faith in this parliament that I would love to see. How do I convince those young Australians that this political process is one in which they can have faith? How can I convince them that the issues that they want to talk about are ones where we can really make a difference?
You also spoke about knowing your limitations, about drawing from but not being a slave to your lived experience, and realising that celebrating diversity is something you value more than enforcing your ideology on others:
I am grounded by the humility of my limited knowledge. I hope I am guided, but never coloured, by my life experiences. I tell my story not to hammer some ideological stake in the ground but to celebrate the diversity of experiences that are here. Different backgrounds add to the breadth of this parliament…
I refer you to a statement on mental health on your web site claiming:
75% of all mental illness presents in people aged under 25, that’s why I’m so pleased to announce Capalaba is one of 15 locations across Australia that will get a new Headspace centre.
A further such statement on your web site claims:
Mental health is a topic I take very seriously, and for those interested we’ve just announced a new Headspace facility for Capalaba where youth can get early intervention and treatment for drug, alcohol and mental health issues. This kind of facility is the key to prevention and supporting our young people long before they’re rolling into emergency. It’s a passionate topic for many, and the majority of us have been touched by mental health in some way. Let’s work together to come up solutions and constructive feedback so we can support our young people.
It is evident that you not only care about giving young people opportunities, but that you care deeply about their mental health and well-being. I am confident most people would align with you on these concerns.
What strikes me as a little odd is that whilst you are passionate about these issues, you appear to be lacking the necessary degree of commitment to stand by them.
There is ample evidence that young people who are marginalised and discriminated against due to their sexual orientation or gender identity have poorer mental health outcomes than their peers:
Same-sex attracted Australians are more likely to experience below-average health outcomes including higher levels of depression, due to this prejudice and discrimination. The statistics are particularly alarming for younger and newly-identifying LGBTI people who have consistently higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, early school leaving, conflict with peers and parents and suicide ideation, all directly related to the discrimination and prejudice they experience.[v]
Young people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex who are denied hope, opportunity and the rewards of society are those who are most likely to be in need of the mental health services you have campaigned so passionately for.
You voted strongly against marriage equality in 2010 and 2012, and declared in 2011 that you are personally “opposed to SSM [same-sex marriage]” but “support legally-equivalent civil unions as an alternative“.
The masthead on your web site states:
You are registered as a medical practitioner Mr Laming and have worked as a GP. You will no doubt be aware of how risk factors play out in the well-being of people’s lives. I ask you to think hard about the implications of choosing to vote against marriage equality, knowing that maintaining the status quo is linked to poorer health outcomes. I also ask you to consider that a vote against marriage equality will obliterate the hopes, opportunities and rewards for the same young people whose welfare you so passionately and genuinely care about.
Polling by Crosby-Textor, the go-to pollsters for the Liberal Party (the party that you are a member of) showed that in 2014 there was very strong support nationally for people aged 18-34 (female: 90%; male 81%). In 2010 the News Ltd Same-Sex Marriage poll indicated 43% support in Bowman, 40% opposed and 17% indifferent. That means 60% of Bowman are not opposed to marriage equality.
In 2004 you claimed that you wanted to empower young Australians to actively engage in politics and to speak out about the issues that are important to them. In 2015 you are asking your electorate to tell you about marriage equality yet you are bypassing the credible polling that exists. The young people of Australia and in Bowman want marriage equality very much.
You talk of hope, reward and opportunity. You talk of wanting to reduce the plight of mental health issues in young people in Bowman. You talk of wanting to give young Australians faith in their parliament. You talk about wanting to see young people achieve what is important to them. You talk of knowing your limitations and not hammering your ideology. You talk of celebrating diversity. Yet despite all this talk you are prepared to turn your back on it if the unscientific and clumsy polling that you are engaging in suggest you should not support marriage equality.
What exactly are your priorities Mr Laming? Are they centred around the welfare of your electorate, or are they centred around your further reelection to office? Because it strikes me that the people of Bowman are not getting the best representation you could give them if you continue to turn your back on what all the evidence is showing.
I leave you with the quote that you borrowed from Robert F Kennedy in your first speech and your closing paragraph. Perhaps now would be a prudent time to contemplate them.
“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. That ripple builds others. Those ripples – crossing each other from a million different centers of energy – build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and injustice.”
– Senator Robert F. Kennedy
While there are no mighty walls to sweep down in Bowman, there are plenty of opportunities for ripples of hope—opportunities to enrich a beloved community, to preserve our Redland character and to provide choice and opportunity for those whose faith has put me here.
In the best interests of the young people of Bowman, their families, friends and communities, I urge you to vote for marriage equality.