LGBTI+ youth finding life at home during Covid-19 ‘devastating’

BelongTo survey reports high levels of suicide ideation, self-harm and loneliness

More than half of LGBTI+ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex) young people have felt suicidal during the Covid-19 crisis and two-thirds have self-harmed or thought about it, a survey published on Monday finds.

It details the “devastating” impact the lockdown has had on these young people’s mental health, with almost all (93 per cent) feeling anxious, stressed or depressed during the pandemic.

The survey, by the national advocacy organisation for young LGBTI+ people BelongTo, draws on data gathered from over 500 LGBTI+ young people across 26 counties and finds almost half (42 per cent) saying they are “not fully accepted” in their home communities and more than half (53 per cent) describing home as “not a good place to be during Covid-19 restrictions”.

Some 55 per cent are struggling with suicide ideation, 45 per cent are struggling with self-harm and 60 per cent are experiencing loneliness.


The organisation is concerned the damage done to these young adults’ mental health may last well beyond the pandemic.

Family harassment

Among the pressures are slagging and harassment by family members; feeling alone with their thoughts for extended periods; and the re-emergence of mental health difficulties that had been under control.

One young person reported: “They know I am gay, but we do not speak about it. They make comments without thinking and never make any effort to be accepting or ask me about my personal life.”

Another said: “My sister harasses me and calls me slurs to her friends. I just want quarantine to be done so I don’t have to hear her justify homophobia.”

On loneliness, one told the survey: “I feel like I have to sit and dwell on my thoughts a lot more and it gets to me a lot sometimes. My mental health has plummeted during lockdown.” Others reported struggling with worsening mental health and suicidal thoughts.

“Right now, my depression is worse than it’s ever been, and really that’s saying something. I’ve had days where I couldn’t even get out of bed, because of a numbness and lack of motivation,” said one.

Exacerbated by restrictions

Another said: “I have not made any attempts at my life while in isolation, but it has worried me how much these thoughts have reappeared. It had been over a year since I last had this level of depression and it is hard to feel like things have gone backwards.”

Moninne Griffith, chief executive of BelongTo, said the mental health difficulties faced by many LGBTI+ young people had only been exacerbated by the crisis, particularly the restrictions imposed to suppress the pandemic. She said BelongTo had responded with digital outreach, online support groups and online training.

“We need continued funding and support for the LGBTI+ youth sector to combat these serious mental health challenges.”

  • BelongTo can be contacted through 24-hour free-phone: 116 123
  • HSE-funded Crisis text-line: text HELLO to 086 1800 280
Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times