Psychological Distress, Resilience, and Help-Seeking Experiences of LGBTIQA+ People in Rural Australia

By Tamara Reynish, Ha Hoang, Heather Bridgman, and BrĂ³na Nic Giolla Easpaig

Published 6 February 2023


In Australia, LGBTIQA+ people report higher mental illness and distress rates than heterosexual, cisgender people. Higher rates of mental illness and distress in LGBTIQA+ people can be due to a range of factors, including but not limited to stigma, exclusion, and limited appropriate social and professional support.

Previous research has shown that LGBTIQA+ people access mental health professionals more than heterosexual people. However, for LGBTIQA+ people living in rural Australia, access to mental health professionals can be difficult, and the service that supports LGBTIQA+ people is variable.

Research has also found that LGBTIQA+ people living in rural areas are more likely to have higher levels of general psychological distress, suicide rates, and self-harm prevalence than those in metropolitan regions.

Research and findings

In this study, researchers aimed to explore the mental health experiences of LGBTIQA+ people in rural Tasmania. Researchers Hypothesised that LGBTIQA+ people would report high barriers to receiving professional mental health care and low resilience levels due to limited social support.

The research explored the experience of LGBTIQA+ people using a mixed-method approach of interviews and surveys. For the survey, six LGBTIQA+ people helped to inform the development of the survey questions. The survey contained 174 questions about identity, demographics and help-seeking experiences. The survey also included the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) and Brief Resilience Scale (BRS) to determine levels of distress and resilience.

The primary author interviewed each interviewee in person or via telephone. Participants were recruited by convenience sampling through personal and professional networks and using Facebook to support a snowball sampling approach. Participants were offered a chance to enter a $100 prize draw. In addition, interview participants were given $30 for their time.


  • 65 survey participants who completed the K10 scored an average of 26.1, indicating high levels of psychological distress.
  • 86.4% of survey participants reported having comorbid mental health diagnoses.
  • 51.1% of survey participants have seen a mental health professional for issues relating to LGBTIQA+. 70.6% of those who saw a professional hadhigh psychological distress, and 52.9% had low resilience.
  • 76.7% of cisgender participants had a mental health professional nearby, while only 23.3% of transgender participants reported having one locally. Additionally, 64.3% of transgender participants lacked public transportation compared to 35.7% of cisgender participants.
  • 86.4% of survey participants reported having comorbid mental health diagnoses, primarily depression (84.8%) and anxiety (81.8%).
  • Formal support included psychologists, counsellors, psychiatrists and GPs.
  • 41.2% of participants were educated mental health professionals on LGBTIQA+ matters.
  • Barriers to accessing care included a lack of nearby services in rural Tasmania, operating hours, trust, and the need to take time off work.


LGBTIQA+ people living in rural Tasmania have high levels of distress and low resilience. Mental health professionals can support LGBTIQA+ people in navigating their mental health. Addressing barriers to professional care (such as access, hours of operation, type of professional support, LGBTIQA+ informed and supportive care) may support the mental health of LGBTIQA+ living in rural Tasmania and other rural areas in Australia.