A coalition of sex trade survivors and their supporters have called on the mental health sector to recognise the specific mental health challenges faced by people in the sex industry.
In a letter addressed to Beyond Blue and Mental Health Councils as part of Mental Health Week, the coalition has urged these bodies to engage with people who have exited or want to exit the sex industry and their representative organsiations to develop tailored mental health support for those in the sex industry.
Eight survivors of prostitution and a number of doctors, academics, politicians, mental health professionals and organisations are signatories to the letter. They include The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, former ETU secretary Dean Mighell, WA MLC Peter Abetz, Feminist academic and lawyer Dr Jocelynne Scutt, as well as Australian Singer Katie Noonan.
The group has also called on Beyond Blue appoint an ambassador for the unique experience of mental health faced by people in the sex industry.
Research conducted by the University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology noted that women in prostitution from all sectors of the sex industry had poorer mental health than Australian women of comparable age who were not in the sex industry. In 2005 the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre also interviewed women in prostitution, they found that approximately half the participants met the criteria for PTSD with 31% reporting current PTSD symptoms.
‘In the nineteen years I worked, in Australia and different countries, in brothels, private apartments, massage parlours, escort agencies, on the streets —I never met one woman who truly wanted to do sex work. Everyone I encountered was depressed, felt trapped and was trying to figure out how to make a better life for themselves. It was fear that kept drawing me back. Fear of not having enough money, fear of not fitting in to the real world, fear of someone finding out. I was mentally imprisoned for nineteen years.’ said prostitution survivor Geena Leigh.