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A Conversation About Pride Month With Linda O’Sullivan and John Nevin

Stats, figures and stark realities…

Data published by the International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA World) shows there are many countries throughout the world that continue to criminalise and oppress LGBT+ people; including 49 countries which punish homosexual acts with imprisonment and 11 countries that use the death penalty against LGBT+ people. Here, in the UK, and across Europe, we have seen huge strides in legal and social reform. From decriminalisation of homosexuality in the late 1960’s, through to the liberation movements of the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. Towards almost full legal equality – with the advent of reforms including gender recognition, civil partnerships, equal marriage, anti-discrimination and equality laws and protections.

However, there is still much work to be done in terms of social reform. Violent crimes against LGBT+ people are on the increase, many hate crimes and hate incidents go unreported. Stonewall estimate over 80% of hate crimes and hate incidents against LGBT+ people go unreported. There is a lack of understanding and awareness of domestic violence and abuse in same-sex relationships, often remaining invisible. There is a significant level of underreporting of all types of violent crime, and a lack of help-seeking among LGBT+ people including those in violent and abusive relationships.

LGBT+ adults can and do experience negativity in a range of health, care, and other settings, including social care, which can impact negatively on health and wellbeing. Many LGBT+ people fear experiencing discrimination when they seek help. This impacts on people’s health including presenting at later stages of illness and disease.

Mental health, anxiety, depression, and loneliness disproportionately affect LGBTQ+ people and both older and younger generations of LGBT+ people find access to support and services challenging and difficult. Research shows that mental health problems, like depression and anxiety, are two or three times more common in LGBTQ+ people and these communities are also at a greater risk of suicide, with worrying stats such as these below (source: Stonewall, 2018):

  • One in eight LGBT people aged 18-24 (13%) said they have attempted to take their own life in the last year.
  • Almost half of trans people (46%) have thought about taking their own life in the last year. 31% of LGB people who are not trans said the same.
  • 41% of non-binary people said they harmed themselves in the last year. This compares to 20% of LGBT women and 12% of GBT men.

What we do to support the LGBT+ community…

Dorset Mind are committed to working in partnership to enhance the support available across Dorset for all members of Dorset’s LGBT+ community. Currently we do this through our Mindout service, which offers a safe and accepting space for those in the LGBT+ community experiencing mental illness.

Group facilitator John Nevin comments…

Our Mindout facilitator John Nevin speaks candidly about how being part of the LGBT+ Community 365 days of the year can have an impact of an Individual’s mental health.

‘Pride is for every day not just the month of June’

This is the sentiment of group members who attend Mindout, the LGBT+ Wellbeing Support Group run by Dorset Mind. Even though the month of June can offer some solace to the community, as other non-LGBT+ communities show their support, it’s largely seen as commercial exploitation by the wider LGBT+ community. Instead of celebrating pride regularly throughout the year, for one month out of the 12, businesses and organisations will put up rainbow flags, add rainbow flags to sandwich packaging, or like we have seen this year, release a limited addition rainbow coloured 50 pence piece.

Prior to the COVID 19 Pandemic, businesses and organisations that displayed rainbow flags all year round did so to indicate a safe and supportive environment for the LGBT+ Community. However, since the adoption of the rainbow flag to show support to the NHS, that visible certainty of an ally with mutual pride has been erased. 

Pride can exude from an individual without external influences. However, to sustain that pride and allow the individual to fully develop their psychological and creative potential in a prejudice and non-supportive environment, even being part of a tribe or community is invalid. The decrease in visible support for the LGBT+ Community in Bournemouth isn’t just because of how many rainbow flags there are on display, it is the gradual reduction, in the last decade, of LGBT+ only venues. The result of this has been an increase in cases of loneliness and isolation, which then has had a fundamental impact on the mental health of members of the LGBT+ community and is the reason people attend the Mindout group at Dorset Mind. 

Mindout is an opportunity to meet new people and talk openly without judgement about mental health struggles, current or historical experience of prejudice and discrimination or rejection due to their sexual orientation. There is a clear correlation between these factors and the increase of poor mental health within the community. However, factors such as chemical imbalances in the brain and other unrelated trauma can also have a great influence. It is safe to say that the group has had a lasting impact on its group members. With the average age of members being between 40 and 60, members can talk openly about their experience of being brought up in a very heteronormative society with bigoted attitudes towards the LGBT+ Community and prejudice being a ubiquitous and shared issue.  

In the groups we cover topics and explore issues such as confidence and self-worth, or lack of in some cases, we explore shame and guilt, boundaries in relationships, coping strategies to challenge negative thinking and anxiety. We like to focus on finding hope and finding solutions by setting small goals to improve wellbeing and encourage friendship and socialising outside of the weekly meetings. The group members offer emotional and practical support to each other by contributing different viewpoints, shared experience, positive affirmations, and signposting to useful or enjoyable organisations or other social groups

Since joining Dorset Mind earlier this year I have learnt so much from working alongside John and hearing from the participants of our unique Mind Out service in Bournemouth. The main thing I have learnt is that we must work together to create both an inclusive workplace and community that creates a positive and safe support network for those in the Dorset LGBT+ community who live with mental illness.

Our Guest Bloggers:

Huge thanks to our two guest bloggers, MindOut group facilitator John Nevin and Dorset Mind CEO Linda O’Sullivan for this very powerful piece about pride and what it means to the community.

Further Support:

Dorset Mind run an LGBT+ group for aged 18+, MindOut is a safe, confidential, and accepting space for LGBT people experiencing mental health issues. It offers recovery-based peer and staff support.

If you are struggling to cope with your mental health in general, please talk to your GP. If you’re in a crisis, treat it as an emergency. Call 999 immediately or The Samaritans, FREE on 116 123. 

Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your wellbeing. The group offers peer support and helps to reduce stigma by normalizing conversations about mental health. You can also check out further support for stress and mental health here. 

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Dorset Mind is a self-funded local charity that helps people in Dorset experiencing mental health problems access the vital support they need. The charity is at the very heart of our communities shaping futures, changing and in some cases literally saving lives.

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