Almost three in four LGBT teenagers in Ireland have had suicidal thoughts, while one-third have attempted suicide, a major new report has revealed.
According to the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) Ireland Report, while the majority of LGBTI people over the age of 26 report good self-esteem and are doing well, the same cannot be said for younger people.
This marks the largest study every undertaken into the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTI people in Ireland and it revealed that among those aged 14-18 years, seven in 10 have had suicidal thoughts, one in three have attempted suicide and almost six in 10 have self-harmed.
Odhrán Allen of GLEN (Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) described some of the findings as ‘harrowing'. He noted that as well as increased self-harm and a higher suicide risk, there were also ‘worrying levels of severe stress, anxiety and depression' among some LGBTI people and he said that it is clear that stigma, rejection and discrimination are ‘still a reality for many'.
However, he emphasised that being LGBTI in itself does not increase the risk of poor mental health, ‘it's the experience of being bullied, being rejected or being harassed because you are LGBTI that leads to higher levels of self-harm and attempted suicide'.
The report noted that within the school setting, 67% had witnessed bullying of other LGBTI students in their school, while 50% had experienced anti-LGBTI bullying themselves. One in four had considered leaving school early and one in 20 did quit school.
When it came to coming out, the report noted that 12 years was the most common age when people discovered their LGBTI identity, while 16 was the most common age when they told someone else for the first time. However one-quarter of people who had come out had not yet told their mother or father.
Some 3% had not come out to anybody and these were more likely to be younger people, bisexual or intersex. The main reason given for not coming out was fear of rejection and discrimination. People were particularly concerned about the reaction of their family and friends, especially when they were aware of existing negative attitudes among their loved ones.
According to Prof Agnes Higgins of Trinity College Dublin, who lead the research team, as well as differences across age group, the report also found differences among LGBTI people.
"The research reveals that there is a hierarchy of risk among LGBTI people, with intersex, transgender and bisexual people reporting poorer mental health
outcomes compared to gay men and lesbian women," she explained.
She said that this hierarchy of risk ‘reflects the fact that more progress has been made on reducing homophobia in Ireland than biphobia and transphobia'.
"This hierarchy of progress highlights the need for increased advocacy and support for bisexual, transgender and intersex people and to address the diversity of needs within the LGBTI community," Prof Higgins added.
Meanwhile, according to Dr Carol-Anne O'Brien of BeLonG To, a national organisation which offers support to people aged 14-23, it is essential that LGBTI people and their families know that they are not alone.
"There are LGBTI youth and community services across the country. Schools, mental health services and other support agencies are being increasingly proactive about creating safe and supportive environments for the LGBTI people in their care. The report highlights the urgent need to accelerate this work," she said.
The report, which included the results of a survey of over 2,200 LGBTI people in Ireland, was carried out by researchers at Trinity College Dublin and was funded by the National Office for Suicide Prevention. (NOSP).
For more information on GLEN, click here
For more information on BeLonG To, click here
For more information on the NOSP, click here