Healthcare and young LGBT people

 

Sir, – It is disappointing and concerning to read the findings from the recent Belong To Youth Services report (“Being gay in school: ‘It’s still a hushed subject’”, News, November 11th).

The survey found that majority of LGBT youth feel unsafe in school, experiencing homophobia and discrimination from fellow students and in some cases from teaching staff.

While attitudes to LGBT people in Ireland are now regarded as among the most progressive worldwide, Irish LGBT people still experience stigma and discrimination.

It is recognised that sexual minorities suffer significant health inequalities compared to heterosexuals.

These health disparities include increased rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide and drug and alcohol dependencies.

As a result of stigmatisation, social exclusion, discrimination and harassment (as outlined in the Belong To Youth Services report), LBGT people experience minority stress.

The alienation from social structures, norms and institutions contributes to an accumulation of internal and external stressors which impact negatively on a person’s ability to cope, including increasing the rates of high-risk health behaviours.

Healthcare providers and funders need to recognise that young LGBT people are a vulnerable population with increased health needs.

GPs can play an important role in providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for safe sexual orientation disclosure for their patients.

This can be achieved by the use of inclusive language, avoiding heteronormative assumptions and having visual clues (LGBT-friendly and human rights campaign leaflets, stickers and posters, and rainbow signs) in the surgery waiting areas.

Furthermore, medical education and training bodies need to incorporate more LGBT-specific knowledge and communication skills in their curriculums. – Yours, etc,

Dr DES CROWLEY,

General Practitioner,

Ranelagh,

Dublin 6.