In this blog, Policy and Research Manager Paul Daly from LGBT Youth Scotland shares all about the research project: Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People.
At the end of May 2022, we released our research project: Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People. This is a massive piece of research that covers a whole range of areas such as coming out, bullying, work, education, mental health, hate crime and much more. We heard from over 1,200 lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex young people aged between 13-25. We have done this research every five years for the last 15 years – so we are now able to see what is improving, and what is getting worse. SPOILER ALERT: not a lot is getting better, and some things are worse than they have ever been.
We do this research because we know that LGBTI young people have different experiences and face barriers in their everyday lives, which can lead to bigger issues as time goes on. Even within a group of LGBTI young people, what they experience and how they are treated within areas like health care or school will be very different – and there are lots of other individual factors too such as ethnicity, disability, social class and much more.
We’ve been doing this research for a long time, and one thing we know is that as a population LGBT young people don’t have the same positive experiences as ‘straight’ and / or ‘cis’ young people. They also tend to suffer from poor mental health which our findings below reveal.
Firstly, we asked respondents how supported / respected they felt within mental health services, and we saw a big drop between 2017 and 2022 – the percentage of young people feeling supported/respected fell from 74% to 55%. This was the biggest drop in of all the areas of healthcare that we asked about. But why would this be? For sure, one factor will be the impacts of the pandemic. But when we asked respondents about it, they told us they often didn’t feel seen or respected as LGBTI people. It’s important that they can talk about their identity if it’s relevant and they feel safe to disclose this personal information. But when it comes to ‘coming out’ to their doctor, just 55% or respondents said they felt safe to do so.
For me, the most startling findings were revealed when we asked LGBTI young people about their experiences of mental health conditions or related behaviours:
- 77% told us they experience anxiety
- 54% experience depression
- 50% experience suicidal thoughts or actions
- 43% self-harm
These figures are alarming, and we have some information from people who responded that might help us work out why this is the case. For example, a lot of LGBTI young people have experienced bullying in school, others might have had a bad experience when coming out to their family. The way people are affected by the media can also have a long-term impact – so things like the current ‘culture war’ which focusses on trans people’s lives and rights to exist in certain spaces can, over time, have an impact on how people view themselves and their place in society.
We also found that around 1 in 4 LGBTI young people don’t know where to get information about mental health issues, and only just over half think they have enough information about mental health. Given the high numbers of LGBTI young people who say they experience mental health symptoms or behaviours, this is really worrying.
Overall, things don’t look great for LGBTI young people right now. That doesn’t mean that we should just accept that and move on. In fact, the opposite is true. Now that we have this evidence, we will take the voices and experiences of young LGBTI people to decision makers in the Scottish Government and get them to put LGBTI young people at the centre of their work. We will also work with mental health services to ensure they can be as inclusive as possible. And as a youth work organisation, we will of course continue to support LGBTI young people and help signpost them to the support they need.
About our services:
We run in person youth groups, digital youth groups and also have a Live Chat service. Find out what we have near you on our website: www.lgbtyouth.org.uk
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Young Scot supports young people to share their own voices, views and opinions and works with partner organisations and professionals who are experts in different topics. The views expressed in this blog are those of the young people, organisations and/or individuals who have taken part in the blog, not necessarily the views of Young Scot.