In lockdown, LGBT+ young people are twice as likely to suffer from poor mental health than their non-LGBT+ peers.
A survey of 2,934 secondary school pupils by Just Like Us, the charity for LGBT+ young people, found that 55% of LGBT+ 11 to 18-year-olds are worried about their mental health.
One in five young people say they have received no positive messaging from their school about being LGBT+ which, according to the charity, suggests that schools are not taking action to meet Ofsted requirements of preventing homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.
The findings also highlighted that one in four LGBT+ secondary pupils are experiencing daily tensions in the place they are living, with seven in ten queer young people admitting that their mental health had worsened since the pandemic began.
“This is the biggest risk to the mental health of LGBT+ young people since Section 28”, said Dominic Arnall, Chief Executive of Just Like Us.
“We know that teachers and school staff are under immense pressure during coronavirus and that’s why at Just Like Us we’re doing everything we can to make LGBT+ inclusion as easy as possible.
“We’re incredibly grateful for all the schools we work with across Wales who are making a huge and positive difference to the well-being of their pupils with their work on LGBT+ inclusion. We will do everything we can to make sure schools across Wales have everything they need to show their pupils that being LGBT+ is OK and accepted in their school.”
Ben Gamble, a gay transgender man who lives in Pontypridd, has found it extremely difficult not seeing friends in person.
“I’ve missed seeing my LGBT+ friends in person, I miss actually seeing their wonderful faces,” Ben said.
“As an out trans man I had only just started getting involved in LGBT+ spaces as lockdown hit so I can’t wait to get back into the community once this is all over and done with.”
Like many LGBT+ young people across Wales, Ben has relied on technology to keep up to date with friends but fears connections may be getting lost due to the isolation.
“I thrive on seeing people in person and being separated from my community makes it feel like I’m slowly drifting away from them and that’s something I would never want to happen,” Ben explained.
“Mental health has been a lot more difficult to deal with while in lockdown. As an LGBT+ person, I already feel alone at times and lockdown has only made that harder. I’ve just been trying to keep in mind that I do have a network of friends and family I can reach out to if I need to talk to someone, there’s no shame in asking for some help or some company.
“I’ve had to turn to speaking with people online a lot more. Sometimes words can be misread though and sometimes you lose connection with people you love.”
The data forms part of a larger report into inclusive education and the experiences of LGBT+ young people that Just Like Us is due to publish in June 2021.