New figures from BeLonG To Youth Services, the national organisation supporting LGBTI+ young people, show a huge spike in demand for support in 2020. Recently, launching their 2020 Annual Report, the organisation revealed a 113% increase in support through their frontline service, supporting 1,540 individuals, compared to 717 in 2019. Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD launched the annual report online recently.
Findings from the 2020 report showed A 360% increase in individual interventions (phone, email, and text support) compared to 2019, A 108% increase in demand for the in-house crisis counselling service operated by BeLonG To and Pieta. This free service is for LGBTI+ young people who are engaging in self-harm or experiencing suicide ideation, The top presenting issues for service users in 2020 were mental health, coming out, gender identity, coming out as trans, and sexual orientation and LGBTI+ young people made up 52% of the caseload, with additional support delivered to parents, educators, and professionals. These figures mirror the devastating impact Covid-19 and restrictions have had on the mental health of LGBTI+ young people. Findings from a national survey conducted by BeLonG To in 2020 reported that 93% of LGBTI+ youth are struggling with anxiety, stress, or depression during Covid-19. This is compared to 53% of the general youth population named in the Young Social Innovators Covid-19 Youth ‘Check In’ Survey 2020. The BeLonG To 2020 Annual report provides insight into what life is like for LGBTI+ young people in Ireland today.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD said: “Many young people have been unable to meet up with their friends, meet people at school or go to their favourite hangout spots. This has had a disproportionate impact on LGBTI+ young people, who so often rely on their support networks when faced with discrimination or hostile home environments. Covid has meant that many young people have had no other option but to connect with friends online, where regrettably, instances of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia have been on the rise. BeLonG To has been vital in providing that extra support and safe space for young people to turn to when they’ve experienced feelings of isolation, have witnessed or been the subject of online attacks. LGBTI+ young people deserve to feel safe, supported and celebrated in all of their diversity.”
Moninne Griffith, CEO of BeLonG To Youth Services, says: “It has been alarming to witness the impact of Covid-19 on LGBTI+ young people in Ireland. Even before the pandemic, this group experienced a significantly increased risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation. The global pandemic has compounded these mental health challenges, and we saw demand for our frontline support services soar over the past 12 months. This demand for one-to-one and peer group support comes at a time when we see the rise of a small but loud group of far-right actors in Ireland attempting to undermine LGBTI+ rights and the existence of trans people. It is really troubling to see a growth in incidences of hate speech targeting the LGBTI+ community, particularly across social media platforms. At BeLonG To Youth Services, we believe true connection exists in a community where young people feel valued, safe and accepted, for who they are. For us, it’s crucial that LGBTI+ young people get the help, care, information and encouragement they need both online and offline. Our team rapidly responded in 2020, providing digital youth work, including online LGBTI+ youth groups along with text, email, and phone support services. In 2020, we supported LGBTI+ young people with nowhere else to turn to for help. For some young people they experienced isolation from their peers and chosen family. Others were stuck in homes with family members unsupportive of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and many were feeling anxious, scared, and alone. We are here to connect with LGBTI+ young people no matter what is going on for them, and we will continue to ensure they get the support they need as we recover from the pandemic and keep that connection alive, even when physically apart.”