Today is World Mental Health Day, a day to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilise efforts in support of mental health. We all have mental health, with its importance highlighted by the fact the World Health Organisation (WHO) states ‘there is no health without mental health.’ For so long it was taboo to speak up about mental health and for the most part, people felt stigma or shame around it. But no more. Today we are truly encouraged to speak up and not to be afraid to ask for help when we feel down, anxious or depressed.
It isn’t always easy and many of us may still struggle to do so. But at least we now have positive role models from all walks of life who advocate the importance of our mental health and share their own stories and struggles to help break down the stigma and show us we are not alone.
Being part of the LGBTQ+ community in itself doesn’t mean we will all have issues with our mental health. However, being part of a minority, any minority, can lead to extra (minority) stresses which can sometimes have a knock-on effect on our mental health. Earlier this year a national survey conducted by BeLonG To Youth Services revealed the consequence of the pandemic for LGBTQ+ young people. The research showed that 97% of LGBTQ+ youth were struggling with anxiety, stress, or depression. The need to look after our mental health and wellbeing has never been more acute.
Thankfully, there are fantastic organisations such as BeLong To, LGBT Ireland, TENI (Trans Equality Network Ireland) and The Switchboard who work tirelessly to help, guide, support and advise people on their various journeys. Their contribution to the wellbeing and livelihood of LGBTQ+ community is immeasurable. A case in point being BeLonG To’s ‘Better Out Than In‘ campaign, which has just been relaunched.
The campaign strives to promote a healthier relationship with mental health and wellbeing amongst 14–23-year-olds in Ireland who are LGBTQ+. Here they find support for urgent issues such as bullying, relationship breakdown, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and abuse or assault. It is a confidential service, using a secure online platform and is free to use. And where BeLong To leave off, organisations such as LGBT Ireland, TENI and The Switchboard takeover, working for inclusion and equality for everyone and providing support to the LGBTQ+ community, no matter your age or where you are on your journey.
Our Mental and Sexual Health
In recent years the relationship between our sexual health and mental and overall well-being has come into focus. According to the WHO, the current working definition of sexual health is: “…a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity.”
Our sexuality, our sexual expression, our gender identity and our self-expression are all part of our sexual health and should we struggle with any of these, it can affect our mental health and well-being. All of our journeys are different; some of us may struggle when accepting our true selves whether we are gay, bi, trans, non-binary or identify as straight. It can be a stressful time and furthermore revealing our true selves to family, friends and work colleagues can add to this. Sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to live our truth and this can manifest in different ways, affecting our mental and physical health. This is possibly a lot more common than we can imagine, is true for many, and not just LGBTQ+.
Alongside the mental health supports that exist, delivery of sexual health services have also become more client orientated and are not now merely focussed on preventing and treating disease. The approach has become more holistic with a strong focus now on the health and well-being of the client. Important services such as MPOWER in Dublin, Sexual Health Centre in Cork and GOSHH in Limerick are approaching sexual health and wellbeing in new and innovative ways.
Through peer lead outreach and education, they offer services and support to improve the sexual health and therefore overall health of gbMSM and trans people in their areas and online. Their message is to “reach out and get the help you need, there are friendly non-judgemental professionals here to help.” These advances and innovations have for the most part been funded by the HSE and Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme (SHCPP), who are committed to working with community organisations and improving the sexual health of the nation.
A case in point is the man2man.ie site which is run jointly by the HSE and Gay Health Network with the content and campaigns supported by the SHCPP. This year, in response to community feedback and findings from EMIS 2017, man2man.ie developed mental health and wellbeing pages which can be found here.
As Bill Foley from GHN, who helped develop the pages, states “The man2man.ie mental health pages can help you identify what the problem is. It can also give you some techniques on how to address it. The next step is to talk it out. Find someone you trust in your inner circle; be it, family or friends.
If you don’t have anyone consult a professional. Our pages carry a list of support services you may find helpful. Improving your mental health will have positive effects on every aspect of your life. So, if you have a problem take our two-step approach: Work it Out and Talk it Out.”
Earlier this year, to coincide with PRIDE, GHN and man2man.ie created a video that features sexual health professionals speaking to the camera about the importance of looking after our mental health. The sexual health professionals from GOSHH, MPOWER and Sexual Health Centre in Cork speak candidly and share their insights on our mental health and its relationship to our sexual health and overall wellbeing. The result is an insightful and reassuring piece that is well worth four minutes of your time.
As we come out the other side of COVID-19 perhaps there is an opportunity to revolutionise how we view sexual health and mental health, acknowledge their intrinsic connection and advocate on behalf of a more informed and mature relationship with sexual health. Ideally, early intervention via education for teenagers around transition year age, and solid sexual health education would go a long way to improving the sexual and mental health of future generations.
This work is already in progress through the LGBTQ+ inclusion strategy, but it requires further resources and can sometimes meet resistance. Further investment in these areas, especially for more vulnerable groups such as gbMSM and trans people, but also across the board, would be greatly welcomed. This is something LGBTQ+ and sexual health organisations will continue to work toward and advocate for together alongside our European partners who share our goals.
The Switchboard Ireland
Outhouse, 105 Capel St, Dublin 1.
LGBTQ+ support & resources since 1974 | 7 days per week.
The Switchboard Ireland is Ireland’s longest-running support service for the LGBTQ+ community. LGBTQ+ volunteers are available 7 days a week on the phone, email and online chat to offer confidential listening, support and information. Monday to Friday: 6:30pm – 9pm, Saturday & Sunday: 4pm – 6pm. Phone 01 872 1055. Contact: WhatsApp @ 089 26 74 777 Email: [email protected] for support & signpost by email.
BeLonG To/Pieta House Counselling Service
This is free support for LGBTQ+ young people in the Dublin area who are self-harming or thinking of suicide. Call 01 462 4792 or email [email protected] to book an appointment. Visit https://www.belongto.org/counselling-service-pieta-house/ for more information.
The National LGBT Ireland Helpline provides a confidential, listening, support and information service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The service is also used by people who are questioning if they might be LGBTQ+, as well as the family and friends of LGBTQ+ people and professionals looking for information. The LGBT Helpline is available 7 days a week: Phone 1890 929 539. Mon – Thur (6.30pm to 10pm), Fridays (4pm to 10pm), Sat-Sun (4pm to 6pm). The Transgender Family Support Line is open twice a week: Sunday (6 pm-9 pm), Tuesday (10 am-12 pm). Phone 01 907 3707 Visit www.lgbt.ie
Transgender Equality Network Ireland
(TENI) seeks to improve conditions and advance the rights and equality of trans people and their families. Their vision is an Ireland where trans people are understood, accepted and respected, and can participate fully in all aspects of Irish society. Visit www.teni.ie Phone: 01 873 35 75
HSE YourMentalHealth Information Line
The HSE YourMentalHealth Information Line, is always available anytime day or night, for information on what services and supports are available near you. Freephone 1800 111 888 or visit www.yourmentalhealth.ie. 24 hour support for your mental health is also available from;
- Samaritans – Freephone 116 123 or email [email protected]
- Text50808 – Text HELLO to 50808 for free
A GP can offer support for anyone in crisis. If possible, ask someone to come along with you. Find a service near you: GP or health centre Out of hours GP service
Visit www.pieta.ie, phone 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444
Sexual Health and Wellbeing
The MPOWER team of peer sexual health outreach workers offer information, support and resources relating to HIV, STIs and other sexual health & wellbeing needs. The team is available to speak to you by phone, email, WhatsApp, and Zoom.
- Phone 01-8733799 and ask for the MPOWER Team (Mon-Fri 10 am – 5 pm)
- Whatsapp on 086 065 7212 (Davy), 0866002996 (Mark), 0892291869 (Diego)
- Email: [email protected]
- Website: https://mpower.hivireland.ie
GOSHH (Gender Orientation Sexual Health HIV) covers the Mid-west of Ireland and offers personal support, training and education; peer social or support groups, and counselling. GOSHH aim to provide a safe, welcoming environment for the people we work with by fostering a person-centred approach to support, information and advocacy. GOSHH’s client base includes People who are LGBTQ+ or have diverse Genders and Orientations, their caregivers and families; People seeking support around their Sexual Health and wellbeing; People Living with HIV, Hepatitis C and other blood-borne viruses and Sex Workers. GOSHH also provides a support service to professionals who would benefit from interagency work, training, advice or support, when working with our client base. GOSHH work with people of all ages including those under the age of 18. Their service is confidential and for the most part free of charge. To contact GOSHH please call us on 061 314354 or email [email protected]
Sexual Health Centre Cork
Sexual Health Centre Cork offer the services of a dedicated Sexual Health Advisor to members of LGBTQ+ community. Konrad Im provides sexual health advice and support in an understanding and warm environment, on a wide range of matters such as healthy relationships, sexuality, sexual dysfunction, gender and sexual identity. You can make an appointment by sending an email to [email protected], calling the Sexual Health Centre on 021 427 5837 or contacting Konrad directly at [email protected]
Sexual Health West
A support service coordinator is available to meet with anyone in relation to all aspects of HIV/STIs and Hepatitis. We offer free one-to-one client support to including pre-and post-test support – appointments can be arranged by calling 091 566266 / email [email protected]. Sexual Health West’s outreach programme includes information stands at colleges, universities, Healthy Ireland & community events, festivals and shopping centres across the region. The organisation also distributes information and condoms to pubs, clubs and gay bars.. For further information, contact [email protected] or ring 091 566266
For further mental health wellbeing information and to find a list of support services visit man2man.ie/mentalhealth
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