Words: Will Stroude
A national charity says the LGBTQ community is currently facing a "mental health emergency" following the findings of a new survey assessing people's experiences over the last year.
The survey of 2273 people by LGBT HERO carried out in April uncovered alarming levels of isolation, loneliness and suicidal feelings experienced since the beginning of the UK's first national lockdown in March 2020.
35% of respondents (more than one in three) reported feeling suicidal in the last year, with that figure leaping to 46% among those under 25.
6% reported a suicide attempt, with trans people three times as likely to have attempt suicide in the last year compared to cisgender people (12% vs 4%).
14% of under 18s reported attempting suicide in the past year. Of these, 53% were transgender or gender-diverse.
"The results are clear, they tell us our community is suffering and they need help and support"
LGBT Hero's findings also shine a light on the difficulties faced by many LGBTQ people over the past year connecting with other queer people or expressing their identities openly.
Only 17% of under 18s said they could express their sexual or gender identity all the time during lockdown, with 12% of respondents reporting that they could never express their LGBTQ+ identity during lockdown.
Meanwhile, 14% of respondents said they had no contact with another LGBTQ person for over a month.
Ian Howley, Chief Executive of LGBT HERO, says of the survey's troubling findings: "Before Covid-19 began, we knew that LGBTQ+ people were far more likely to experience poor mental health and wellbeing. However, I don't think anyone realised when this all started the impact it would have on our community.
"The results are clear, they tell us our community is suffering and they need help and support. I'm extremely alarmed at the number of LGBTQ+ people who have felt suicidal over the past 12 months, especially from LGBTQ+ people under the age of 25 and those from trans and gender diverse backgrounds."
Howley speculates that the crisis in LGBTQ mental health may be down to queer people feeling unable to be themselves in the current environment of lockdowns and social distancing.
"It’s important that charities like us survive"
"The evidence suggests the reason for this is down to anxiety, isolation and loneliness", he says. "It's clear many LGBTQ+ people felt trapped over the last year, but especially since the latest national lockdown began.
"We as LGBTQ+ people need to connect with one another, we need spaces to meet, feel safe and we need to be able to express who we are as people. And it was all taken away from us with no guarantee it will ever return to the way it was."
Urging the government to do more to support LGBTQ mental health and the charities currently providing help to those suffering, Howley says: "Although the government has released funds over the last year for non-profits during the coronavirus pandemic, it doesn’t go far enough and charities, like us, tend to fly under the radar and miss out on a lot of the funding that’s available.
"LGBT HERO, as a national health and wellbeing charity is here to support LGBTQ+ people in any way we can, especially during a crisis like the one we are living through. LGBT HERO supports over 100,000 LGBTQ+ people a month.
"It’s important that charities like us survive so that we can continue to be there for LGBTQ+ people when they need us."