Surge in use of LGBT+ helplines as COVID-19 intensifies mental health conditions for some

Many Irish LGBT+ helplines and support groups have been quick to diversify their offering to meet the demand for support during the crisis.

lgbt+helpline man in black shirt holding black smartphone

One of the biggest side effects of the precautionary measures taken by governments to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is a marked increase in mental health problems, an issue which can be more pronounced amongst the LGBT+ community. As people are forced to self-isolate, many are turning to LGBT+ helplines and support services to help them during this stressful time which can be triggering for many.

During this unusual time, many people in the LGBT+ community do not have access to their usual support networks but many LGBT+ organisations are still working hard to make sure people struggling always have someone to talk to.

It has been reported that many helplines are experiencing an influx in callers who are struggling with anxiety, loneliness and isolation. Some are also facing domestic violence or abuse from partners or from homophobic and transphobic families.

LGBT+ peer-led helplines

LGBT Ireland has been working hard to respond to the changing needs of Ireland’s LGBT+ community during the crisis. Alongside their helpline, they have created a Facebook group to help older LGBT+ people overcome difficulties with socialisation caused by COVID-19 lockdown.

Older LGBT+ people face particular challenges in the face of the ongoing pandemic. The “double invisibility” a person may experience results in feelings of loneliness and disconnect from their community. In 2018, it was reported that 77% of elderly people who contacted LGBT Ireland Helpline cited rural isolation as a major concern.

In partnership with TENI, LGBT Ireland also operate a Gender Identity Family Support Line is operated by families who will give support and information to trans people and their family.

BeLonG To have also developed a dedicated support service in response to COVID-19 for LGBT+ young people during this time of uncertainty.

Although their face-to-face groups are cancelled, for the time being, they are still providing vital support through email, text and over the phone.

In Cork, LINC are supporting the LBT+ community with one on one call or video chat with members of staff and also hosting virtual drop-ins on Zoom.

Subscribe to their mailing list to keep up to date with their schedule.

Gay Project are also running most of their main groups at the same time or daily in the form of “group chats, meme sharing, joking, conversing and storytelling.”

On Facebook, they shared: “It’s been amazing to witness the strength of our community throughout this and kudos to all for [staying] engaged and supporting one another.”

Teach Solais in Galway has announced that from Saturday, April 4 they will be hosting online “drop-ins” on Zoom at the usual time of 2 pm – 4 pm.

They are also in the process of setting up a phone line for those looking for information about them or about additional supports that may be available.

GCN has recently published a guide on how to deal with anxiety and stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are also a plethora of supports available to vulnerable LGBT+ people, listed below, and many offer instant messaging support.

LGBT Helpline
TENI
Samaritans
HIV Ireland
Dublin Rape Crisis Centre
Aware 
Pieta House 
Mental Health Ireland

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

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