Gay teenagers continue to endure widespread bullying

‘Horrific’ findings show LGBT young people at high risk of self-harm in addition to suicide

Overall, the report finds school continues to be a very difficult place for many young LGBT people. Photograph: Getty Images

Overall, the report finds school continues to be a very difficult place for many young LGBT people. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Gay and lesbian teens continue to experience alarmingly high levels of bullying at school and a high risk of suicide despite the passage of last year’s same-sex marriage referendum.

These are some of the findings of the largest study to date of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Ireland, carried out by a research team at Trinity College Dublin.

The study notes that Ireland has made significant strides in advancing the civil rights of the LGBT community, while the majority of over-25s report good self-esteem and are proud of their identity.

But significant numbers of younger LGBT people experience elevated levels of suicidal behaviour and self-harm, as well as worrying levels of severe and extremely severe stress, anxiety and depression.

Compared to the wider teen population, gay teens were two times more likely to have self-harmed, three times more likely to have attempted suicide and four times more likely to have experienced anxiety or depression.

The study, commissioned by campaign groups Glen and Belong To and funded by the HSE, is based on an online survey of more than 2,200 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people in Ireland, with a special emphasis on young people.

It also includes a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 people aged 18 to 65.

Self-harm

Some 56 per cent of 14- to 18-year-old LGBT teens in the study said they had self-harmed while 70 per cent of this age group had seriously thought of ending their own life.

The study is the first to include intersex people, those born with sex characteristics that do not allow them to be defined as distinctly male or female.

Overall, the report finds school continues to be a very difficult place for many young LGBT people. Only one-in-five feel they belong completely in their school, while less than half feel they have received positive affirmation of their identity.

The report also shows that LGBT people continue to experience victimisation and harassment in their day-to-day lives. Three-quarters have been verbally abused, with almost one-third reporting abuse in the past year.

Only one-in-three felt safe showing affection or holding hands with a partner in public. Some 15 per cent said they would never do either.

One-in-three have been threatened with physical violence due to their sexual identity, while one in five had had hurtful things written about them on social media.

Former president of Ireland Mary McAleese, who is due to launch the report on Tuesday, says the findings are “revealing” and “horrifying”.

“The ongoing damage is undeniable. That it involves so many young people is tragic. That it is solvable is the good news,” she said.