‘Stark deterioration’ in mental health within LGBTQ+ community, researchers say

Two-thirds of respondents report experiencing severe or extremely severe symptoms of anxiety

There has been a “stark deterioration” in mental health within the LGBTQ+ community, according to a report published on Thursday by a team of researchers at Trinity College Dublin.

The survey, which involved over 2,800 LGBTQ+ respondents, indicates that mental health and wellbeing have declined since 2016, with significant challenges experienced by younger age groups and transgender and gender nonconforming people.

The report, conducted for LGBTQ+ youth organisation Belong To, follows the first detailed report on the mental health of Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community in 2016.

Among the 631 participants aged between 14 and 18, 77 per cent reported suicidal thoughts, 72 per cent said they had self-harmed and 33 per cent said they had attempted to take their own lives.


Some 66 per cent said they experienced severe or extremely severe symptoms of anxiety, while 50 per cent reported severe or extremely severe depression.

When compared to a 2019 study carried out by University College Dublin researchers on mental health in the LGBTQ+ community, there was a much higher rate of reported self-harming, the new report said.

Self-hatred, shame, gender dysphoria, bullying, discrimination and negative attitudes from family, friends and society were reported reasons for low mental health.

Across all age groups, 72 per cent of respondents reported experiencing verbal abuse while 51 per cent reported feeling unsafe showing affection with a same-sex partner in public.

One in four reported being punched, hit or physically attacked while one in three had been touched sexually without their consent. One in six reported sexual violence due to being LGBTQ+.

Almost half (49 per cent) reported experiencing homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying in school while 79 per cent reported witnessing it.

A further 62 per cent reported that LGBTQ+ bullying was not actively addressed within their school.

Some 60 per cent of participants said they had sought professional help for mental health in the past five years.

Mental health challenges were highest among gender nonconforming and transgender participants, 22 per cent of whom did not live openly.

“I’ve experienced a large amount of transphobic bullying from people in my class. They told me that I was a freak and that I was just saying that I was gender-fluid for attention. They told me to die, starve myself because I was fat, that I was ugly and spread rumours around my whole school year that I had lice,” said a 14-year-old participant.

Though the study found a positive change in public attitudes towards lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people since 2016, members of the public surveyed had less favourable attitudes towards the transgender and intersex communities.

People who reported more knowledge and more frequent interaction with transgender and intersex people were significantly more likely to have positive attitudes.

Some 84 per cent of participants said they would be comfortable if their child was LGB, while 69 per cent said the same if their child was transgender.

Moninne Griffith, chief executive of Belong To, described the findings as “disheartening” but “not surprising”.

“Anti-LGBTQI+ and particularly anti-trans attacks are on the rise, and we are seeing increasing levels of hate directed at our community.

“These upsetting findings should serve as a rallying cry to the Government, policymakers and allies to work with us to end anti-LGBTQI+ stigma and discrimination, and create a society where the LGBTQI+ community can feel safe and supported,” she said.

* The HSE lists various supports and information available for members of the LGBTI+ community, including the LGBT Helpline 1800 929 539

Jack White

Jack White

Jack White is a reporter for The Irish Times