by Jennifer Bauwens
November 10, 2021
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) recently issued a new position statement on the treatment of gender dysphoria (GD). This announcement follows recent moves by several European countries to amend their offerings of physiologically damaging procedures on minors who experience distress over embracing their biological sex.
Although the RANZCP doesn’t go as far as to ban transgender procedures on minors, their statement does echo a few noteworthy points raised by proponents of policies aimed at protecting children from these physiologically damaging practices. The RANZCP position paper:
- Acknowledged there is a lack of quality empirical evidence in the scientific literature on interventions for GD. In particular, there is a dearth of long-term research that shows a positive effect of these procedures on mental health outcomes. (Click here for more information on the scientific method.)
- Referenced studies showing an elevated risk for poor mental health outcomes among trans-identifying youth, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and self-harm. Considering this, the RANZCP recommend multiple treatment options and a comprehensive assessment of the patient.
- Stated that the comprehensive assessment should evaluate other mental health concerns and not GD alone. The evaluation should also include an exploration into the circumstances that gave rise to GD and an examination into the personal and familial background of the patient.
- Admonished psychiatrists to give evidence of a minors’ ability to give informed consent. Additionally, an assessment of the risks and benefits of various treatments for GD was emphasized. (Click here for more information on ethics.)
The RANZCP’s statement is one more small step towards recognizing the problematic state of mental health care for minors suffering from GD. By including an assessment of the family and ruling out the existence of mental health issues among caregivers, their position appropriately affirms previously held approaches to mental health care with minors. Additionally, the RANZCP endorses the profession’s commitment to providing evidence-based practices, exploring multiple treatment options and contributing factors to psychological distress, and ascertaining whether the minor can truly give consent to care.
As we continue our battle to keep America’s children safe, it is heartening to see other countries and professional groups recognizing the flagrant gaps in the scientific literature and reaffirming that treatment should be informed by evidence and not uniformly given to popular treatment protocols. A decade ago, this statement would’ve seemed irrelevant to most mental health professionals, but today, we see that we cannot take for granted good practice standards. For now, we are grateful for one more stride toward keeping our kids safe.