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Join us in discovering how to better support young LGBTQIA+ individuals by understanding and overcoming the unique barriers we face when accessing mental health services. Together, let’s dive into the complexities and nuances of our experiences!
Chris: Hi. My name is Chris. My pronouns are they/them.
Jenny: Hi. My name is Jenny. My pronouns are she/her.
Twyla: Hi. My name is Twyla. My pronouns are she/they.
Mali: Hi. My name is Mali. My pronouns are they/them or she/her.
Chris: There are lots of amazing people and organisations working with LGBTQIA+ children and Young People. Chances are, if you’ve taken the time to complete this learning guide, you are one of them. But we know there are still reasons that make it difficult for young people to get the help they need.
Twyla: Identifying these barriers to access involves thinking about the combination of all the reasons why a person may have experienced negative challenges and prejudice. This includes gender, race, class, sexuality, ability and beliefs.
Jenny: We know that people supporting us in crisis are working hard to help us feel understood and safe, but this can be challenging sometimes depending on your knowledge and experience. We heard from professionals, parents and carers that they worry about supporting LGBTQIA+ young people.
Mali: Identifying how these areas all interact in a young person’s life adds to their feeling of safety with you. Making assumptions without understanding the life and background of the young person can make accessing the right support more challenging for everybody. We find it helpful when you don’t generalise experiences, especially when considering how different parts of our life experience may overlap.
Twyla: I am of ethnic minority and part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Race is something that can be seen and you can be judged by that before anything else. For example, queer people of ethnic minorities can feel that it is assumed that they are cis and/or straight. Another thing that some queer people of colour can struggle with is that people from minority groups can forget they are privileged in other areas of their lives. For example, being gay and white or being straight and black. It is validating to acknowledge that, although you may be able to relate to someone in some ways, like both being part of a minority group, their experience is theirs.
Chris: Acknowledging your own lack of confidence or experience and how that could make providing support challenging is important. Sometimes it might be helpful to think, “am I the right person to help?” and if you feel you aren’t then, ‘how can I get this person the support they need?’
Jenny: Gender identity and sexuality is a significant part of who we are. Many queer Young People have experienced judgement and discrimination and may be used to only feeling safe with other people who identify as LGBTQIA+. One young person told us, ‘I am judged and treated differently because of my appearance and the way I dress.’ There are many reasons that might be affecting how we feel. A lot of LGBTQIA+ young people change how they act with different people to fit in.
Navigating mental health support as young LGBTQIA+ people often presents unique challenges and needs, beyond those typically faced by others seeking help. Whether or not our sexuality or gender identity contributes to our distress, it’s crucial that supporters like you create a safe and welcoming space for us to discuss any aspect of our identity.
As someone supporting us in crisis, be open to assessing if you’re best equipped to offer assistance in each situation and remember that treating us as individuals with unique needs is vital. One key aspect we want to emphasise is the importance of signposting. Many of us might lack family support, leading to feelings of isolation. By connecting us with LGBTQIA+ specific support groups and safe spaces, you can help build valuable support networks for us. Explore more about the value of signposting in the ‘What we need people supporting us in crisis to know’ section.
Understanding the challenges that we face within the health system will help you to create safe spaces and link in with other organisations to help provide the support that we need. These resources from The Kings Fund and National Institute of Economic and Social Research highlight what the challenges are, and how we can move forward together:
- The King’s Fund, Acting on the evidence: ensuring the NHS meets the needs of trans people, Acting on the evidence: ensuring the NHS meets the needs of trans people | The King’s Fund (kingsfund.org.uk)
- Inequality among lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender groups in the UK: a review of evidence 160719_REPORT_LGBT_evidence_review_NIESR_FINALPDF-4.pdf
- ‘If you’re not counted, you don’t count’: what can be done to tackle LGBTQ+ health inequalities – ‘If you’re not counted, you don’t count’: what can be done to tackle LGBTQ+ health inequalities? | The King’s Fund (kingsfund.org.uk) (podcast)