Young LGBTQ+ Mental Health
Nationally, it has been estimated that 5-7% of the population is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBTQ+). If this figure was applied to Calderdale this would equate to approximately 10,300 to 14,400 LGBTQ+ people in Calderdale. This figure may be even higher as doesn’t include those who may be questioning or exploring their sexuality or identity.
In recent years, LGBTQ+ awareness has increased and support networks have grown, especially in the UK. Some schools have LGBTQ+ awareness workshops as a part of their PSHCE curriculum and LGBTQ+ is included in Sex Education. In some schools there may be LGBTQ+ support groups for students but these are not compulsory in the UK.
LGBTQ+ people can be at a higher risk of experiencing a mental health problem than the wider population, especially young people. Some examples might be: depression, anxiety, suicidal feelings, self-harm, eating disorders and alcohol or substance misuse.
A survey by charity Metro found that young people from the LGBTQ+ community have higher rates of self-harming (52%), suicidal thoughts (44%) and anxiety and depression (42%). These statistics are far higher than NHS (2007) study which showed self-harm at 12% and suicidal thoughts at 21%, showing that young people may not always go for medical support or help when coping with emotions.
The reasons for the rates being higher in the LGBTQ+ community can be linked to discrimination, bullying, homophobia, biphobia or transphobia. Experiences of hostility, rejection and negative reactions from family members or friends can also have an impact on young people’s self-esteem and in turn their mental health.
Here’s an account from Taz, a 19-year-old Bradford student who came out to her family and school friends when she was 14.
"There was a mix of direct bullying and rumours. I'd made friends with someone who wasn't in my year group and there were rumours that we were in a relationship. We weren't together but it spread around the school in a matter of days and it hurt a lot. I thought it was unfair I should have to suffer, because [straight] people were getting into relationships all the time, which no one cares about."
Taz says young LGBT people find can find it hard to access support services. "The effort you have to go to, to seek out help, can be off putting."
If a young person feels unaccepted or alone, it may negatively affect their sense of self-worth. More specifically, in transgender young people, mental health can also be affected by issues such as gender dysphoria.
It’s vital that LGBTQ+ young people going through something difficult get the right help. Having support, building self-esteem and emotional resilience can really help an LGBTQ+ young person to figure out who they are in a positive way and feel confident in their own skin.
In Calderdale, Barnardo’s Positive Identities service includes one to one support as well as a weekly youth group for 12-18 year olds (“Identity”), where young LGBTQ+ people can socialise, learn, make friends and join in with crafts or games.
LGBTQ+: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, plus (which includes any other sexualities and identities). Q can often also stand for Queer.
Asexual: A person who generally does not feel sexual attraction or desire to any group of people. Asexuality is not the same as celibacy.
Ally: Typically any non-LGBT person who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBT people, though LGBT people can be allies, such as a lesbian who is an ally to a transgender person.
Biphobia: Aversion toward bisexuality and bisexual people as a social group or as individuals. Bisexuals may receive this from the heterosexual and the LGBTQ+ community.
Bisexual: A person who is attracted to both people of their own gender and another gender. Also called “bi”.
Cisgender: Types of gender identity where an individual's experience of their own gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.
Gay: A person who is attracted primarily to members of the same sex.
Gender dysphoria: discomfort or distress caused by a mismatch between a person’s gender identity and their biological sex assigned at birth.
Lesbian: A woman who is primarily attracted to other women.
Questioning: For some, the process of exploring and discovering one's own sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Researched by Hayley Gleadell and written by Annie Wade Smith
Barnardo’s Positive Identities