UK failing LGBT+ teens on mental health - campaigners

by Rachel Savage | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 23 November 2018 18:21 GMT

A group of school children hold flags near Windsor Castle on the day before the wedding of Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Windsor, Britain, May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

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Nearly 35 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual 14 to 19-year-olds in England had a mental disorder, compared to 13 percent of heterosexual adolescents

By Rachel Savage

LONDON, Nov 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain needs to do more to help LGBT+ teenagers, campaigners said on Friday, after government data showed more than one in three struggle with mental health problems.

Nearly 35 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual 14 to 19-year-olds in England had a mental disorder, compared to 13 percent of heterosexual adolescents, according to official data released on Thursday.

The research showed the mental health of all young people is worsening in England, and campaigners said there was a particular need for more support for children struggling with their sexuality.

"Even if children are referred for specialist mental health treatment there is a slim chance they will receive it, which is totally unacceptable," the NSPCC, a children's charity, said in an emailed statement.

"We hear from children and young people every day who are targeted because of their sexuality. The abuse and negative stereotyping can be so cruel they have self-harmed or been made to feel isolated and withdrawn from society."

Campaigners also blamed homophobic bullying and called on the government to reform education.

The number of children bullied because of their sexuality in Britain fell by almost a third between 2007 and 2017, according to a report published by the pressure group Stonewall.

However, nearly half of LGBT+ pupils experienced homophobic or transphobic bullying at school. Seven out of 10 lesbian, gay or bisexual children had thought about killing themselves.

The problem is even worse for transgender pupils, who are also more likely to attempt suicide and self-harm, according to the Stonewall research.

"When bullying is not addressed – it can have a deeply damaging and long-lasting impact on young people," Stonewall's head of policy Laura Russell told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.

"Children should be taught that LGBT people are no different from anyone else, and that anti-LGBT behaviour should be called out where safe and appropriate to do so."

Ros Sewell, a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy who has worked with children and young people, agreed there was not enough counselling in schools.

"When people are going through these issues and discovering, 'what am I, who am I,' there's no one to go and talk about that to," she said.

The government study found almost a quarter of all girls aged 17 to 19 had a "mental disorder", which includes hyperactivity and behavioural problems, compared to one in 10 boys.

(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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