As a registered nurse, caring for others is part of Bryant Strong’s job. But that caring doesn’t stop when his shift ends.
The University of Southern Queensland nursing graduate, who is now studying two more degrees - Master of Nursing and a Bachelor of Midwifery – has dedicated his life to improving the mental health of LGBTIQ+ youth.
A queer man himself, Mr Strong said growing up, he struggled to find his identity.
“There’s a lot of confusion and a lot of underrepresentation of bisexual men, so it was confusing for me when I was young,” he said.
“As long as I can remember, I was attracted to men, women, and people who were gender non-binary, but I didn’t see that represented a lot in pop culture or people I hung around.
“Through high school, I struggled to work out what labels to use to describe myself, but the one I most commonly use is queer.
“I’m proud to be a queer man. I’m proud to represent part of my community and advocate for the wider LGBTIQ+ community.”
Mr Strong has worked to provide medical support to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras since 2017 and has made addresses to state parliament on the health and mental health concerns facing the LGBTIQ+ community as part of his advocacy work.
Despite recent progress in social acceptance and legal rights for LGBTIQ+ people in Australia, many still find it challenging to cope with or understand their sexuality or gender or experience discrimination for being LGBTIQ+.
It’s something Mr Strong is reminded of every day while working at Our House Our Haven – an innovative nurse-led mental health and support service in Ipswich.
Founded by Carey Blaik, a 2021 finalist in the Health Minister's Award for Nursing Trailblazers, Our House Our Haven is where Mr Strong demonstrates his passion and dedication while supporting the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ youth.
“I did a placement here (Our House Our Haven) during my final year of my Bachelor of Nursing degree, and I instantly loved it. I was very grateful when Carey later offered me a job to work here,” he said.
“It’s a nurse-run outpatient clinic for people with complex mental health issues to visit and connect with if they’re looking for a more relaxing environment than a clinical setting.
“A privileged part of the work I do here is helping young people navigate their gender identity and sexuality, which can be a challenging and confusing time in their lives.
“I’m also thankful I get to support LGBTIQ+ youth with mental health issues because while we have made so much progress in the fight for equality and acceptance, we’re not doing it quickly enough.
“There is a significant mental health crisis occurring among LGBTIQ+ youth.
“LGBTIQ+ young people are five times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their straight peers.
“We’re letting them down because they’re not getting the care they need, and not enough people in the healthcare system are educated about the LGBTIQ+ community.
“I want to be able to contribute to a legacy of progress but also want to help get things done faster.”
Born and raised in Ipswich, Mr Strong graduated from West Moreton Anglican College in 2016 before enrolling in a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Southern Queensland’s Ipswich campus.
He was drawn to a career in nursing by seeing the vital role health and medical professionals had played in supporting his younger brother, who was diagnosed with autism at three years old.
Over the next week, Mr Strong will celebrate two important events close to his heart – International Nurses Day, which takes place today (May 12) and IDAHOBIT – International Day against LGBTQIA+ Discrimination on Tuesday (May 17).
“Nursing has provided me with many life-changing opportunities and rewarding experiences,” he said.
“I’m very fortunate. I get to work in a service run by nurses, and I get to represent my profession while also giving back to the LGBTIQ+ community.”
Mr Strong is on track to finish his Bachelor of Midwifery by the end of this year and his Master of Nursing next year.
He hoped to combine his passion for mental health with his other love, midwifery, by opening up a private practice that provides antenatal care to women suffering from mental health concerns.
Registered nurse, LGBTIQ+ advocate and University of Southern Queensland graduate Bryant Strong.