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Mental health groups report huge surge in numbers of LGBT+ people at risk of suicide during lockdown

Josh Milton July 3, 2020
domestic abuse

(Stock image: Envato Elements)

UK mental health groups have reported a dizzying rise in numbers of LGBT+ people at risk of suicide as the psychological toll of the coronavirus pandemic begins to show itself.

Though the mental health fallout of the coronavirus has yet to be fully realised, advocates stress, a number of groups have noted an increase of LGBT+ people seeking help.

Many are wrought with anxiety and isolation, some have been forced back into the closet. And with eight charities informing the BBC of a surge in LGBT+ users accessing suicide prevention support, many executives and service-providers expressed concern that the nation’s fragile mental health services will no doubt be overwhelmed.

LGBT Hero noted that 11,000 people have accessed its suicide-prevention web pages – up over 44 per cent on the first three months of the year, the BBC reported.

The LGBT Foundation reported more calls concerning suicide “than ever before“, coming after the charity said in March that calls to its helpline had doubled.

Gavin Boyd, of the Northern Ireland-based Rainbow Project, said: “In just the last three weeks, we know of three LGBT people who have ended their lives.”

Another executive at the charity, who wished not to be named, said: “We know of two young LGBT people in the past two weeks.

“We’re under more pressure to deliver than ever before.

“The government has done absolutely nothing to help regional LGBT charities cope with the demand from our already struggling service users.”

LGBT+ people feel ‘forgotten and failed by the government’ when it comes to mental health.

The Conservative Party launched its LGBT Action Plan in 2018 which remained a plank in the party’s re-election campaign in 2019.

Included in the plan was a promise to “reduce suicides amongst the LGBT population”. Two years on, and it’s hard to see where officials have taken action.

Some queer folk impacted by the passing of loved ones due to suicide aired their own grimaces towards the government and the ways in which the coronavirus has disrupted access to already fragile mental health services.

“Before lockdown, I was in touch with mental-health services for therapy,” Sam Brookes, whose fiancé Iago died by suicide in 2019, told the BBC.

“I was in touch with my GP too. In lockdown, I’ve heard from nobody. Nobody’s checked in.”

Brooks decried the government for its inaction in collecting data around LGBT+ suicide, pointing out how different departments have various, often chaffing policies around it.

Within England, suicide prevention is the responsibility of the Department of Health and Public Health England, and coroners are responsible for flaggings deaths by suicide.

But the Ministry of Justice does not get them to collect data on sexual orientation or gender identity, leaving a glaring gap in the data used by officials.

Activists have long expressed frustration at the UK government for not keeping national data on LGBT+ suicides, despite that fact government officials consider queer folk at high risk.

Brooks said: “Iago’s been forgotten and failed by the government.

“As an ethnic-minority gay man, he was let down big time and he deserved more help.

“Not counting our data means the struggle will continue for others.”

A Department for Health official said: “We are absolutely committed to supporting everyone’s mental health and wellbeing, especially during this unprecedented period.”

Suicide is preventable. Readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org), or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). ​Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.

More: Coronavirus, COVID-19, helpline, LGBT Foundation, mental health, mermaids, The Rainbow Project

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