Director of Mental Health, GLEN
Attitudes to lesbian, gay, bi-, trans- and intersex people have come a long way. Yet still LGBTI young people have poorer mental health. The LGBTIreland report shows schools may be the answer.
Ireland has changed from a society noted for its oppressive attitudes to lesbian, gay, bi-, trans- and intersex people. It has changed into a forerunner in progress on equal civil rights of LGBTI people. Yet it still has further to go.
“Why does the LGBTIreland Report show that compared to the national youth mental health study, LGBTI young people report twice the level of self-harm. Similarly three times the level of attempted suicide and four times the level of severe anxiety and depression?” asks Odhran Allen, Director of Mental Health at Gay + Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN).
Allen continues: “It’s not because people are LGBTI that they report higher levels of mental distress. It’s not because people are LGBTI that they report and lower levels of wellbeing. It’s the experience of being bullied, harassed, rejected or stigmatised”. Of those surveyed 75% said they have been verbally abused in public. Also 50% report being bullied in school. This is linked in the report to poorer mental health and higher levels of self-harm and suicidal behaviour.
LGBTIreland report shows school experience must change
The report’s findings challenge general assumptions that LGBTI prejudice is more common in older people. “Among the general public the 18-24 age group and the over 65s were found to be twice as likely to think it acceptable to deny people jobs because they are LGBTI,” says Allen.
Universities and workplaces were rated 10/10 for being LGBTI-friendly. While schools only achieved 5/10. “A third of people – which means a third of teachers, parents and guidance counsellors do not believe that children can know they are LGBTI by age 12 – the most commonly-reported age for realisation. School culture must change to protect all children.”
The LGBTIreland report hopes to show the shortcomings in the LGBTI experience and how we can overcome this in future.