What is it about?

During the 2017 Australian marriage equality debate, identity threats experienced by LGBTIQ people were challenging to overcome and even adaptive coping did not significantly improve mental health. This study demonstrates the difficulty in dealing with extreme levels of stigma experienced during this period and also the lack of applicability of many coping strategies in dealing with identity threats. This study advances the need to re-evaluate the value of normative coping strategies in dealing with extreme stigma-related stress and confirms the importance of a societal rather than individual perspective to improving mental health outcomes for minorities.

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Why is it important?

Findings indicate that societal and structural influences are primary in both impacting and addressing mental health of minorities. In terms of therapeutic support, findings indicate the need to remove stigma-related barriers to accessing services known to be a factor in poorer mental health among LGBTIQ people, and affirmative and effective interventions to support coping with sexuality and gender minority stressors. A key finding is the need to reduce the understandable tendency towards maladaptive avoidant coping in the context of stigma-related stress. Anti-oppression therapeutic approaches which address the structural context of psychological distress are also important in empowering LGBTIQ individuals.


This paper is important in that it uses empirical evidence to demonstrate difficulty in coping with minority stress, alluded to in former publications but rarely accounted for. The paper is confirmative of minority stress theory in that it shows that individual responses, even when adaptive coping strategies are used, are no match for societal prejudice and discrimination. Structural stigma-based discrimination, the stressor assessed in this study is shown to increase psychological stress and is extremely challenging to cope with.

Saan Ecker
University of New England

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: “Voted yes—What else can I do?”: Coping with stigma-related stress during the Australian marriage equality debate., Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, November 2021, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/sgd0000543.
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