Developing responsive HOPE services for the LGBTIQ+ community

HOPE poster with NWMPHN staff
  1 June 2023  Life in Mind   

This article was first published in Life in Mind on 16 May 2023. 

North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network coordinates and supports health service provision for the people in central, western and northern Melbourne, for a population of more than 1,600,000 people. LGBTIQ+ people are one of the focus groups for suicide prevention within North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.

Jackie Ceratti, Lead for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention at North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network, shares with Everymind, one of the suicide prevention programs operating in the Primary Health Network Region that improves safety and inclusivity for LGBTIQ+ people. Jackie explains that Hospital Outreach Post-Suicidal Engagement (HOPE) services delivered by Victorian mental health services offer aftercare support for people who attend a hospital emergency department in crisis or following a suicide attempt. However, many members of the LGBTIQ+ community have reported that their experiences with the hospital-based service were unsafe and, at times, traumatising. The impact of hearing about these negative experiences can discourage other LGBTIQ+ community members from accessing hospital services for fear of experiencing discrimination and trauma.

Lean on Me, a report released by La Trobe University exploring the mental health experiences of LGBTIQ+ people in Melbourne, found that LGBTIQ+ people felt alienated and disrespected by hospital services. Jackie explains that based on the report’s findings, and in conjunction with community feedback, the Victorian Department of Health (Mental Health and Wellbeing Division) and North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network agreed to jointly invest in a project to improve the safety and inclusivity for LGBTIQ+ people.

In 2021, North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network established an advisory group comprising representatives from key organisations (including Transgender Victoria and Switchboard) and HOPE providers from metropolitan and regional Victoria. This advisory group informed the project design to improve the experiences of LGBTIQ+ people accessing the HOPE program.

Thorne Harbour Health, the largest LGBTIQ+ community-controlled health organisation in Victoria, was selected through an Expression of Interest process to develop and pilot a training package to build clinician capability to deliver culturally inclusive care. The training aimed to upskill HOPE providers in LGBTIQ+ inclusion and affirmative practice, helping clinicians and staff to deliver safe services. The projected training outcomes were to increase positive LGBTIQ+ consumer service experiences and confidence when accessing HOPE services and to enable community partnerships and referral pathways between mainstream HOPE and local LGBTIQ+ services.

The HOPE LGBTIQ+ Capacity Building Project was designed, developed and delivered in collaboration with LGBTIQ+ communities, people with lived experience, HOPE service provider representatives and other stakeholders, including an advisory group. Evaluation of the training found an increase in participants’ knowledge and awareness of the hospital experience for members of the LGBTIQ+ community and of the tailored response needed to ensure safe engagement.

The LGBTIQ+ HOPE program evaluation findings have been provided to the Victorian Department of Health for consideration. It is anticipated that the training developed in this project will be made available to HOPE service providers across the state, improving the cultural safety and understanding of practitioners. Jackie Ceratti suggests that the training can be further developed to build the capacity of hospital staff beyond HOPE to ensure that LGBTIQ+ patients receive culturally safe and inclusive care at all points of contact during their treatment.

If you would like further information about the LGBTIQ+ HOPE project, please get in touch with North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network at

North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network and the University of Melbourne have jointly produced several training modules and other resources to increase knowledge and enable better care for LGBTIQ+ people.

Learn more.