Mental Issues Continue to Affect Young People in the UK

A Problem for Young People

A major survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people in the UK has found that just under half have experienced mental health issues.

However, we should not forget that LGBT young people demonstrate extraordinary resilience on a daily basis in the face of hostility and silence.

Led by the charity Metro the Youth Chances project conducted an online survey of 7,000 young people aged 16 to 25 about their experiences of education, employment, health services as well as relationships and sexuality.

The survey found a worrying rate of mental health problems amongst LGBT youth with:

  • 52% of respondents reporting having engaged in self-harm
  • 42% seeking medical help for anxiety or depression
  • 44% reporting thoughts of suicide

The survey results indicate that LGBT young people in the UK have been ‘badly served’ to date by a range of services. Education was a particular concern as respondents highlighted a lack of intervention in bullying incidents and minimal education on same-sex relationships and sexual health.

Inadequate Support focusing on LGBT Issues

The lack of support in schools around LGBT issues is in no small part due to the legacy of Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 which prohibited local authorities from ‘promoting the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality’.

“65% of Youth Chances respondents stated that their teachers never spoke out against homophobia or transphobia and 83% indicated that there were no posters in school reflecting the diversity of sexual orientations or gender identities.”

Despite Section 28 being repealed in 2003 many respondents to the Youth Chances survey, who would have attended school from 2004 onwards, reported a sense of unwillingness amongst schools to address LGBT equality and challenge discrimination.

What Work needs to be Done?

Celebrating LGBT equality and challenging discrimination is often not a priority for schools despite the Ofsted Inspections Framework and Equality Act 2010 requiring proactive work is done around these topics.

“There is clearly more work for the Department for Education to do to ensure schools can confidently support LGBT young people.”

Personal social health education should become a statutory subject and Sex and Relationship Education must be updated to more accurately reflect same-sex relationships, as well as be in line with current equalities legislation.

For too long appropriate measures have not been put in place to support young people and too many have suffered in silence: finding themselves the target of someone else’s prejudice and being emotionally and physically affected.

Surveys such as Youth Chances are a testament to the devastating impact this can have on a young person’s life. Yet we must not forget that LGBT young people are more than these damning statistics.

“Many live, and continue to live, happy, loving and fulfilled lives. Achieving this, however, requires a supportive network, not a ‘sink or swim’ attitude.”

Bouncing Back when we Need to Most

Regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, we can all find ourselves overwhelmed by the challenges that life throws at us. Knowing how to bounce back is a crucial life skill for health and happiness.

This ability to bounce back is not something some people have and others do not, but something we learn. Many gay and transgender young people will already be putting effective coping strategies in place to deal with these challenges.

“However too often LGBT young people lack support and feel they cannot cope. Our schools need to invest more in these young people.”

We’re committed to supporting schools to build upon good practice and establish positive and inclusive learning environments for all.

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