'Coming out' still major LGBT fear

Paula Fagan who manages the LGBT national helpline, said fear of 'coming out' as well as negative reactions from family, friends or colleagues were among the most common sources of distress.

Paula Fagan who manages the LGBT national helpline, said fear of 'coming out' as well as negative reactions from family, friends or colleagues were among the most common sources of distress.

Tue, Feb 19, 2013, 00:00

Mental health is the most frequent cause of concern for people calling a helpline for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, according to its co-ordinator.

Paula Fagan who manages the LGBT national helpline, said fear of "coming out" as well as negative reactions from family, friends or colleagues were among the most common sources of distress.

“People contacted us with a wide variety of mental health issues last year. In some cases callers got in touch because their fear of coming out was causing them anxiety."

“In other cases it was to speak about the impact on their mental health of homophobia. Isolation, harassment and bullying were also commonly cited by callers.”

She said the line, which operates seven days a week but for fewer than three hours a day, received 10,000 calls last year but only 2,086 could be answered.

Almost 60 per cent related to mental health issues. The next most common types of call was concerned family members; about sexual health and safe sex and from people in opposite-sex marriages who were confused and considering leaving the marriage.

“Unfortunately some LGBT people feel they don’t get the same level of support as heterosexual people during times of emotional distress,” Ms Fagan said.

“The death of a partner, for example, can provide a double blow. In addition to dealing with their grief they may not get the same reaction or support that a heterosexual person gets when they lose a spouse.”

The helpline, which opened in 2010, hopes to extend its operating hours. Ms Fagan said the service would like to add 50 volunteer helpline operators to its current 100 around the State. They would receive training and would be asked to commit to a minimum of four hours per month.

The LGBT helpline is confidential and non-judgemental. It is currently open from 6.30 pm to 9 pm Monday to Friday and 4 pm to 6 pm at weekends. The number is: 1890 929 539

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