Over half of LGBT+ youth worry daily about their mental health during the pandemic and are twice as likely to feel lonely compared to their straight peers, new research has found, as experts warn the pandemic is posing a huge risk to queer young people.
New research from LGBT+ charity Just Like Us asked 2,934 secondary school pupils how they are faring during the pandemic. The charity found 55 per cent of LGBT+ 11- to 18-year-olds worry about their mental health daily, compared to just 26 per cent of their straight peers.
Seven in 10 (68 per cent) of LGBT+ young people said their mental health had worsened during the pandemic, with a similar proportion (70 per cent) of trans youth saying their mental health had taken a turn for the worse.
Additionally, LGBT+ young people were twice as likely (52 per cent) as their non-LGBT+ peers (27 per cent) to have felt lonely and separated from the people they are closest to daily during the lockdown.
Schools must take action now to avoid ‘biggest risk to mental health of LGBT+ young people since Section 28‘.
Dominic Arnall, chief executive of Just Like Us, called for schools to ensure LGBT+ pupils are supported during this difficult time. He said the pandemic represents the “biggest risk to mental health of LGBT+ young people since Section 28“.
Arnall said: “The pandemic has been a difficult period for everyone, but our research clearly demonstrates the impact of coronavirus and lockdown has not fallen equally.
“We cannot afford for progress made in LGBT+ education over the past 10 years to be swept aside during coronavirus.”
He said, for LGBT+ pupils, hearing that it’s OK to be themselves is the “single most important thing they need right now to turn around this mental health crisis”. Arnall warned that schools who “de-prioritise” LGBT+ inclusion are “repeatedly telling LGBT+ young people that they don’t exist, don’t matter there’s something wrong with them and no one is there to look out for them”.
The Just Like Us research found one in four (25 per cent) LGBT+ secondary school pupils are experiencing daily tensions in the place they are living. Only 15 per cent of their heterosexual peers said they experienced the same.
Eighteen per cent of pupils said they have received no positive messaging at school about being LGBT+ at all, while 30 per cent said they had only received one or two positive messages in the last year.
‘I’m worried about being forgotten’
Matthew, 14 from Coventry, is pansexual. He said he had a lot planned for 2020 because “I had just come out”. Matthew explained: “I had plans to go to lots of Prides and be active in the community, which I obviously couldn’t do.”
He said he’s not the type of person to feel anxious or nervous because of the news, but he has felt bad because it’s “been a really scary time for everyone”. Matthew shared that it’s been hard not to see his friends or connect with the community as a result of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns in the UK.
“I have ADHD so it’s been tough to find a way to channel my energy, particularly during the first lockdown,” Matthew explained. “I also have had some panic attacks and am worried about being forgotten by others while this is happening.”
He added: “I really miss interacting with other people my age.
“I really miss making people laugh and being able to talk to other LGBT+ people.”
He said his parents are accepting of his sexuality, but “they don’t understand everything yet”. Matthew said: “Part of what I’ve missed about lockdown is speaking-face-to-face with other LGBT+ people who understand my experiences.”