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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
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Covid-19 and restrictions have had 'devastating impact' on mental health of LGBTI+ young people in Ireland

A new report provides insight into what life is like for LGBTI+ young people.

THERE WAS MORE than a 100% increase in demand for support from an LGBTI+ youth service last year, according to figures released today. 

BeLonG To said that “these figures mirror the devastating impact Covid-19 and restrictions have had on the mental health of LGBTI+ young people” and “provides insight into what life is like for LGBTI+ young people in Ireland today.”

The report from BeLong To shows that the top presenting issues for service users were mental health, coming out, gender identity, coming out as trans, and sexual orientation. LGBTI+ young people made up 52% of caseloads, while additional support was given to parents, educators, and professionals.

Demand for services has remained high in the first quarter of 2021, CEO Moninne Griffith told The Journal, with an increase in young people access services but also of parents and teachers seeking to support young LGBTI+ people. 

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an increase across the board in 2021 again,” she said. 

BeLonG To said that in total, there was a 113% increase in support through their frontline service last year compared with 2019. The youth service launched their 2020 annual report with Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman. 

In 2020, there was a 360% increase in individual interventions through phone, email, and text support.

BeLonG To also offer an in-house crisis counselling service that they operate with Pieta House. The free service is for LGBTI+ young people who are engaging in self-harm or experiencing suicide ideation and saw a 108% increase in demand.

In a press statement, O’Gorman said BeLonG To had conducted vital work in providing “extra support and safe space for young people” when faced with isolation, or witnessing or experiencing online attacks.

He said that the inability of young people to meet friends in-person has disproportionately affected LGBTI+ youth, who often rely on 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,” he said. 

Moninne Griffith said that “it is really troubling to see a growth in incidences of hate speech targeting the LGBTI+ community, particularly across social media platforms.”

Griffith said it was alarming to witness the impact Covid-19 had on LGBTI+ youths.

“Even before the pandemic, this group experienced a significantly increased risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation,” she said. “The global pandemic has compounded these mental health challenges, and we saw demand for our frontline support services soar over the past 12 months.”

Last year, the LGBTI+ youth service conducted a survey that found 93% of young LGBTI+ are struggling with anxiety, stress or depression during Covid-19. This is compared to 53% of the general youth population who struggle with this, according to the Young Social Innovators Covid-19 Youth ‘Check In’ Survey 2020.

The BeLonG To 2020 survey found that 60% of young LGBTI+ people experienced loneliness, 55% are struggling with suicide ideation and 45% are struggling with self-harm.