Coming out is still the biggest concern for LGBTI+ young people in Ireland.
Coming out during normal circumstances must be a particularly stressful time for most members of the LGBTI+ community, but that stress must be multiplied during the current pandemic situation. With movement restrictions and limits on the number of people you can see, the regular support system that young people might have is no longer in place.
BeLong To, a support service for LGBTI+ young people in Ireland, published the findings of their Life in Lockdown survey, which revealed that
- 93% of LGBTI+ young people are struggling with anxiety, stress or depression (compared to 53% of young people named in the Young Social Innovators Covid-19 Youth ‘Check In’ Survey 2020)
- 55% of LGBTI+ young people are struggling with suicide ideation
- 45% of LGBTI+ young people are struggling with self-harm
- 48% of LGBTI+ young people regard their mental health as bad or very bad
- 60% of LGBTI+ young people are experiencing loneliness
Speaking to Moninne Griffith, the CEO of BeLonG To, she revealed the top three reasons why young LGBTI+ people in Ireland contact their service:
"Three top issues are coming out, that is still the biggest reason why people contact us. Fear of rejection, fear that their family will reject, fear about their friends still accepting them, 'will I get bullied online if I come out, will I get bullied in school?', all of that kind of stuff. So that is the biggest one.
"And then the second one after that is mental health issues, with a lot of young people really struggling with anxiety and depression, self-harm or even suicide. We know that LGBT+ young people experience these, or are at risk of experiencing them, at a much higher rate than non-LGBT+ people because of stigma and prejudices and bullying, those kinds of things. So a lot of work there with young people, trying to support them, and then referring them on to other agencies like Jigsaw and Pieta House, and in some cases, private counselling.
"And the third one is around trans health issues, so that could be a mental health issue, or it could just a young person who wants to begin medically transitioning and giving them the information that they need. Or sometimes they just need to ring up and give out to the system, because the system isn't great. There are huge delays, huge barriers, and for some trans people, those kind of delays can be very damaging to their mental health, and they can sometimes need a lot of support around that."
However, while a lot of in-person meetings can no longer take place, BeLonG To have stated that more and more people are reaching out to them online since the pandemic began, and the majority of their services are still available to those with access to the internet.
For more details on how to contact BeLonG To, you can head here.
This interview has been edited slightly for clarity.