Research shows that the LGBT+ community is at a higher risk of experiencing mental health difficulties, including alcohol addiction, substance misuse, depression, self-harm and thoughts of suicide.
We want to tackle mental health stigma in every part of life, so it's important that we reach all communities across Northern Ireland. We are determined to challenge how exclusion and discrimination affect those identifying as members of the LGBTQ+ community and break the stigma around mental health.
The Rainbow Project’s 2013 study of the emotional health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people in Northern Ireland indicated that out of 571 respondents, 35.3% reported having self-harmed, while 46.9% reported instances of suicidal thoughts. Of those surveyed, 25.7% reported at least one suicide attempt; 70.9% recalled experiences of depression.
Furthermore, according to additional research, also carried out by the Rainbow Project, the LGBTQ+ community in Northern Ireland is, by a considerable margin, more likely to misuse drugs (62%), compared to heterosexual people in Northern Ireland (22%). Over half of the respondents (57%) reported drinking to a dangerous level, compared to peers in England.
With these figures in mind, Belfast Pride Festival 2019 represents a valuable opportunity for us to challenge exclusion, discrimination and stigmatisation – and to display and celebrate the inclusive society that wish to create, together.
It remains important, however, for us to look after our own personal wellbeing. So here are some tips on how best to look after yourself and enjoy Belfast Pride Festival 2019:
Talk and make a connection
Talking is a good thing. Have a conversation, discuss the way you are feeling or reach out to someone you are worried about. These are small but meaningful steps that you can take right now.
You may have witnessed first-hand how stigma and negativity can undermine a person’s wellbeing. People should feel comfortable to discuss their concerns at home, at work and in the community. We can achieve this by reflecting on how we relate to mental health, challenging stigma and promoting opportunities for people to talk about sensitive topics.
Look after your physical health
Mental wellbeing and physical health are intertwined. Taking the time to look after your physical self is vital. Exercise more; look after your diet; try to stop smoking; and spend more time outside in the fresh air. With a range of resources and support available to assist you, getting started couldn’t be easier.
Do what you love
It’s easy to stay well when you’re doing what you enjoy. This is a good principle for everyone to follow and, especially in today’s hectic world, it’s important we start setting aside time to pursue the things we enjoy. Make this an important part of your routine, not just a luxury you enjoy when you find time.
Deal with what’s worrying you
Act early to face your worries before they become problems. The worst thing you can do is allow them to fester. It’s easier to tackle issues more effectively when you take a proactive, preventative approach. Regardless of what’s concerning you – be it money, health, family or relationship issues – there are people and organisations who will offer you help and support. Don’t be afraid to reach out for a helping hand.
If you or someone you know needs to speak to someone about the issues raised in this article, you can contact the following organisations:
Gender Jam - Phone: 028 9099 6819
Lifeline - Phone: 0808 808 8000
Samaritans - Phone: 028 9066 4422