How the LGBTQ+ community can help their mental health during these times of lockdown and separation

How we can all cope and connect during these difficult times by remembering we are part of a community.

A woman looking toward the sunrise

Our friends at Under The Rainbow offer words of wisdom and support to the LGBTQ+ community during these unusual times of lockdown and separation.

When you look at evolution, all evidence points to how we thrive and evolve best in community. Looking at our history, the same can be said for our LGBTQ+ heritage. We forged our way to the visibility and rights that we now have through group supports, crowd protests and trailblazers who were able be lighthouses to those of us in the dark.

We all know there is still a long way to go, but evidence suggests we can get there by collaborating and uniting our voices.

This year though, things have changed. Rather than celebrating 50 years of Pride in glam and glitz, making new friends and dancing in celebration, we got to party online. It was the best of a bad situation and most of us really embraced it but, let’s face it, there was a real sense of loss this year. As trainers of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion we got many cancellations for our Pride at Work series. It seemed like the LGBTQ+ movement was losing momentum.

Lockdown has been challenging to almost everybody. However, we are particularly concerned for our friends and clients in our LGBTQ+ community. The Young Social Innovators Covid19 Youth ‘Check In’ Survey 2020 reports that, compared with 53% of the general population, 93% of LGBTQ+ people reported that they are “struggling with anxiety, stress or depression during the Covid19 restrictions.”

Many of our LGBTQ+ clients would have relied on sports and social events or nightclubs to meet likeminded people, express themselves and embrace their identity. With lockdown, this is not an option. Dating is more difficult and the isolation that many face is a stark contrast to nights in Street 66. There are many people who are not able to express themselves at home and struggle with hiding their true gender or sexual identity.

Access to healthcare has been an issue this year as the focus shifted to COVID-19 responses. The knock-on effect on LGBTQ+ healthcare and medical resources is not yet fully known but there is increased stress around accessing services and further delays to already long waiting lists, particularly for trans healthcare.

Several of us have lost our safe spaces due to COVID-19 restrictions. Many helplines for the LGBTQ+ community have reported receiving a much higher volume of calls than in recent years. Our therapy centre has never been busier, with an increased request for LGBTQ+ support.

However let’s take a moment to applaud technology! We’re a national community who are very much #inthistogether. Each of the LGBTQ+ support organisations have responded to COVID-19 by providing options that mean we can connect with a much larger group of people and provide services to people who might not feel safe locally.

Our online world now means people with accessibility or mobility issues are equally included. Counselling online has quickly become a norm, so now you can find a therapist nationwide who has the knowledge and skills to help you, rather than seeing a local therapist who you might have to educate.

Humans have survived so much. The LGBTQ+ community has incredible bounce-back-ability. We are forming new friendships and connections, discovering multiple resources and strengthening the sense of community, all from home. LGBTQ+ Lockdown is giving us the chance to take stock, form alliances and strengthen resilience.

During lockdown, do what you can, when you can. You don’t need to learn ten languages, get a PhD and a six-pack. Get creative, write, paint or draw. Set up online meetings and reconnect with friends. Master making your favourite cocktail from home. Talk to a therapist who you get to choose. Get outdoors and get active where you can. Join a social night online from the comfort of your slippers. Check on your elder LGBTQ+ friends, they might not be as tech savvy. Make your own Christmas cards (please do not lick the envelope!) or use Canva for free to create online Christmas posters.

One thing we do so well in this community is overcoming a challenge. Stay connected, keep the momentum going.

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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