Covid-19 exacerbates mental health risks for LGBT+ youth

Suicidal ideation among respondents rose to 63% last year, new survey shows

More than half of young LGBT+ people surveyed in 2021 said they were not fully accepted in their home environment. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More than half of young LGBT+ people surveyed in 2021 said they were not fully accepted in their home environment. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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The Covid-19 pandemic posed a greater risk to the mental health of marginalised and vulnerable groups, including LGBT+ young people, new research has found.

Findings from a national survey conducted by BeLonG To Youth Services revealed that some 97 per cent of LGBT+ youth are now struggling with anxiety, stress or depression.

Prior to the pandemic, research showed young LGBT+ people were twice as likely to self-harm, three times more likely to experience suicidal ideation, and four times more likely to experience anxiety and depression than their non-LGBT+ friends.

These risks have been exacerbated for young LGBT+ people during the past year. Suicidal ideation among the cohort increased from 55 per cent in 2020 to 63 per cent and feelings of acute loneliness increased from 60 per cent to 83 per cent. Half of respondents said they are struggling with self-harm, up from 45 per cent prior to the pandemic.

More than half of young LGBT+ people surveyed in 2021 said they were not fully accepted in their home environment.

An anonymous response to the survey said “I have found being around my family so much kind of hard. I think it has made me internalise their homophobia more. I used to be more accepting of my sexuality.”

Another respondent said they had thoughts of self-harm “almost daily for the first time in five years”, while another said they had spent “the entire year of this pandemic at least somewhat suicidal, to the point of very active suicidal planning at times”.

Many formal and informal safety nets, supports and services have been “unavailable” because of lockdown, said Moninne Griffith, chief executive of BeLonG To Youth Services.

“Family rejection, feeling unaccepted, and a denial of identity can result in loneliness, stress, anxiety, and more complex mental health challenges,” she said.

It was important to let LGBT+ young people know that they are not alone and that there are spaces for them to “come together, be who they are, and receive the support they need”, she added.

“We are sure that whatever lies ahead, the impact of Covid-19 will be with us for years to come.”

The survey was conducted online from April 29th-May 10th and the sample consisted of 2,279 people between the ages of 14 and 24 years.

Individuals from each province of Ireland were included in the survey sample. To obtain a representative national sample of LGBT+ young people, BeLonG To Youth Services conducted outreach through national, regional, and local organisations that provide services to or advocate for LGBT+ youth.

If you are affected by issues in this article you can call Pieta House 1800 247247 or text “HELP” to 51444, Contact Aware at 1800 80 4848 or supportmail@aware.ie or the Samaritans at 116123 or jo@samaritans.ie. You can also text “HELLO” to 50808 for a free 24/7 text service.