A new text-based mental health service was launched today, as lockdown continues to adversely affect many in the LGBT+ community.
50808 is a free HSE-backed service which aims to provide people with 24/7 emotional and mental support.
The service first began its pilot in September of last year, and ultimately supported almost 4,000 people. Once 50808 is fully operational, it’ll be expected to help around 50,000 people per year.
Around a quarter of people who texted it during its pilot did so because they were thinking about suicide, while 360 people thought about self-harming. 80% of texters were between the ages of 16 and 34.
50808 uses artificial intelligence to scan the words used in the initial text to determine the level of severity. Those deemed to be the most at risk are then placed at the top of the queue.
Minister for Health Simon Harris described the service as free, anonymous and inclusive. He said that it could help many people who would be too afraid to call.
“It’s been an exceptionally difficult time for our country, and this service is needed more than ever. I have no doubt the launch of 50808 will save lives,” he said.
Lockdown has affected many people’s mental health – with a new report from OutLife stating that almost four in five LGBT+ said their mental health had been negatively impacted by the coronavirus lockdown.
30% of the people who used 50808 during its pilot phase were LGBT+, so this service may prove vital for many. Before lockdown, the OutLife report shows that 21% of LGBT+ people experienced loneliness “very often” or “everyday”. Now that number has more than doubled to 56%.
While the OutLife survey was conducted in the UK, the 50808 data showed that 50% of texters sent a message because they didn’t have anyone else to talk to. 48% also said they wanted to talk to someone who didn’t know them.
For those in the closet or in stuck in a home that is not accepting of LGBT+ identities, these reasons may resonate. Although, some LGBT+ people have tried to reestablish a sense of community during the lockdown.
If you or someone you know is affected by any of the mental health issues mentioned in this article, text 50808 to speak to someone for free. Alternatively, free call the Samaritans anytime at 116 123 or the Dublin Lesbian Line on Thursdays from 6:30 pm until 9pm at 018729911.
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