A recent survey by BeLonG To Youth Services has shown that the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth has deteriorated over the COVID-19 pandemic. The research, which used a sample of over 2,000 queer young people from across the country, revealed that 97% of LGBTQ+ youth are currently struggling with anxiety, stress, or depression. Even prior to COVID-19, queer youth were at disproportionate risk of mental health problems, having been twice as likely to self-harm and three times more like to experience suicide ideation than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. However, these risks have been further exacerbated by the pandemic.
Though coronavirus has at times been painted as an equaliser, already marginalized groups have faced the brunt of the pandemic and queer youth are no exception. Self-isolation can exasperate existing adversity such as family and community rejection, isolation and denial of identity.
More than half of LGBTI+ young people surveyed said they were not fully accepted in their home environment because of who they are or who they love. Given that over the past year most people have had to spend the vast majority of their time at home, it is easy to see how these conditions would take a particular toll during the pandemic.
One anonymous respondent said “I’ve had to stay in a deeply homophobic household 24/7. Luckily I’m not out yet but it still hurts.” Another young person commented “I have found being around my family so much kind of hard. I think it has made me internalise their homophobia more. I used to be more accepting of my sexuality.”
It is clear how the challenges of lockdown would be particularly harmful to queer people who do not have a relationship with their family. As one person shared, “I can’t see friends. I’m estranged from family so being on my own all the time has messed with my head.”
Concerningly, these individual testimonies reflect broader trends of worsening mental health during the pandemic. 63% of LGBTQ+ young people said they were struggling with suicide ideation, compared to 55% in 2020, while 50% said they were self-harming, up from 45% the previous year. There was also significant increases in the number of young people facing acute loneliness, as well the percentage of those who described their mental health as “bad” or “very bad”.
Commenting on these concerning results, CEO of BeLonG To Moninne Griffith said;
“The past 12 months have been extremely difficult for LGBTI+ young people, as clear from our research … Many formal and informal safety nets, supports, and services have been unavailable because of lockdowns and increased social isolation.”
“We need to let LGBTI+ young people know that they are not alone. We need to show LGBTI+ young people across Ireland know that there are spaces for them to come together, be who they are, and receive the support they need. To achieve this, we are calling for the support of those passionate about ensuring LGBTI+ young people have their needs met, and their voices heard. We are sure that whatever lies ahead, the impact of Covid-19 will be with us for years to come. Our commitment is to continue to understand how this affects LGBTI+ young people, share that evidence to ensure that their needs are not forgotten, and be here for every LGBTI+ young person who needs us.”
If you need support or advice or just to talk, there are numerous services available for LGBTQ+ people, listed below, and many offer instant messaging support.
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