BeLonG To report finds Covid and restrictions had huge impact on young LGBTI+ people's mental health

"It has been alarming to witness the impact of Covid-19 on LGBTI+ young people in Ireland," shared BeLonG To CEO, Moninne Griffith.

Young woman in facemark looks out a window

BeLonG To, the support service for LGBTI+ youth, launched their Annual Report which revealed the “devastating impact” both Covid and the resulting restrictions have had on the mental health of young LGBTI+ people.

Issues such as feeling trapped at home with homophobic family members, being separated from support structures such as friends, inability to access safe spaces to gather together, and the rise of far right rhetoric took their toll on mental wellbeing.

Moninne Griffith, CEO of BeLonG To, shared: “It has been alarming to witness the impact of Covid-19 on LGBTI+ young people in Ireland. Even before the pandemic, this group experienced a significantly increased risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation. The global pandemic has compounded these mental health challenges, and we saw demand for our frontline support services soar over the past 12 months.

“This demand for one-to-one and peer group support comes at a time when we see the rise of a small but loud group of far-right actors in Ireland attempting to undermine LGBTI+ rights and the existence of trans people. It is really troubling to see a growth in incidences of hate speech targeting the LGBTI+ community, particularly across social media platforms.”

Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, spoke before the launch, saying, “Many young people have been unable to meet up with their friends, meet people at school or go to their favourite hangout spots. This has had a disproportionate impact on LGBTI+ young people, who so often rely on their support networks when faced with discrimination or hostile home environments.

“Covid has meant that many young people have had no other option but to connect with friends online, where regrettably, instances of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia have been on the rise. BeLonG To has been vital in providing that extra support and safe space for young people to turn to when they’ve experienced feelings of isolation, have witnessed or been the subject of online attacks. LGBTI+ young people deserve to feel safe, supported and celebrated in all of their diversity.”

Findings from the BeLonG To Annual Report 2020 report showed a 360% increase in individual interventions (phone, email, and text support) compared to 2019. A 108% increase in demand for the in-house crisis counselling service operated by BeLonG To and Pieta.

93% of LGBTI+ youth reported struggling with anxiety, stress, or depression compared to 53% of the general youth population.

Griffith elaborated on the findings of the BeLonG To report: “For some young people they experienced isolation from their peers and chosen family. Others were stuck in homes with family members unsupportive of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and many were feeling anxious, scared, and alone.”

Griffith reiterated BeLonG To’s commitment to supporting young folk in need, “We are here to connect with LGBTI+ young people no matter what is going on for them, and we will continue to ensure they get the support they need as we recover from the pandemic and keep that connection alive, even when physically apart.”

BeLonG To can be contacted on their website here.

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