Everyone is valued equally and is entitled to have his or her mental-health needs assessed and treated in the most appropriate way. I am aware that anyone who has a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender sexual orientation often has specific and heightened mental-health needs arising from rejection or hostility from his or her family, the workplace and the wider community. That stigmatisation and discrimination can make them reluctant to engage with mainstream mental-health services. I expect any treatment or support by health and social care staff to be offered in a way that is sensitive to the issues arising from a patient’s sexual orientation, and to be delivered in a way that leads to the best outcome.
I thank the Minister for his positive answer. Will he confirm that sexuality is biological and that it is not accepted practice in either psychiatry or psychotherapy to try to cure homosexuality? Furthermore, will he confirm that there is no direct correlation between sexuality and the prevalence of mental disorders, but that it is environmental stresses, such as the intolerance of society, that create problems?
I confirm the first part of Mr Farry’s remarks. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association concluded that there was no scientific evidence that homosexuality was a disorder and removed it from its diagnostic glossary of mental disorders.
The World Health Organization followed suit, as did the British Government. As far as treatments are concerned, the issue is that although sexual orientations are not mental illnesses, members of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups do have specific mental-health needs. They experience discrimination, homophobic bullying, harassment, family rejection, and so on, often leading to suicidal behaviour and self-harm.
The evidence suggests that there are higher than average levels of suicide and substance abuse among those groups. Therefore, their mental-health needs are commensurate, and they are entitled to be treated equally, and in a way that best deals with the problems that they encounter, and their reaction to those problems. In fact, one of the key principles of treatment is that taking a non-judgmental attitude lies at the heart of much of the therapeutic activity. Indeed, the Bamford Review made strong recommendations along those lines.
Over the past few weeks, some people have attempted to suggest that I indicated that homosexuality is a mental-health issue, and they have twisted everything that was said on Stephen Nolan’s radio show. I have got broad shoulders, and can take the brickbats that followed from that. However, nothing could be further from the truth. What I did say was that homosexuality —
I certainly will. Does the Minister agree that there are some people who, in their teenage years, are sexually confused, and that they could do with help from practitioners to assist them with talking therapies, to help them to realise exactly what they are — whether they are heterosexual or homosexual?
I am not in a position to talk about sexual confusion. What I am in a position to do is to reflect what the American Psychiatric Association concluded. There are cognitive-behaviour therapies available, and one of the thrusts of the Bamford Review concerned the need for provision to deal with depression, panic disorder, social phobia, bulimia, obsessive and compulsive disorders, and so on. That is very much the thrust of the work that my Department is undertaking, and of the budget allocation that I am making for the provision of mental-health services.
Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. To a degree, the Minister has already answered my question. Does he agree that there is a high incidence of mental-health problems, including suicide and self-harm, among young gay people particularly, who are only becoming aware of their sexuality, and does he agree that there is a need for people to be very sensitive and tolerant in their use of language — [Interruption.]
A key issue is that those providing therapies in the health and mental-health services take a non-judgmental attitude. That lies at the very heart of therapeutic activity and interventions designed to support people. The Member is right, and I have made the point that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups experience high levels of discrimination, harassment and social isolation, and that leads on to — [Interruption.]
That leads to a higher-than-average incidence of suicidal behaviour and self-harm, which must be dealt with. I intend to continue to deal with that issue, not least, for example, because the UK-wide mental-health group Mind is concerned that such prejudice and discrimination may even extend among health and social care staff. I take that issue extremely seriously.