Wednesday 7 December 2016

LGBTI teens' lives at risk in struggle for sexual identity

Published 22/03/2016 | 02:30

Ex-President Mary McAleese
Ex-President Mary McAleese

Teenagers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) can experience "harrowing" levels of mental distress, leaving them at a three times higher risk than normal of attempting to take their own lives.

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Their quiet desperation, which is revealed in the largest ever study of the mental health of the LGBTI community, is particularly severe during the crucial teenage years between 14 and 18.

The study shows 56pc of LGBTI people in this age group had self-harmed, 70pc had suicidal thoughts and one in three had attempted suicide.

Compared to their peers, they have twice the levels of self-harm; three times the rate of attempted suicide, and they are four times more likely to endure extreme stress, anxiety and depression.

Across age groups, between 12-35pc of LGBTI people report having severe depression.

The study was funded by the National Office for Suicide Prevention and was undertaken by a team at Trinity College Dublin, led by Professor Agnes Higgins.

Dr Carol-Anne O'Brien, director of advocacy at BeLonG To said: "As well as differences across age groups, it also found differences among LGBTI people."

The research reveals that there is a hierarchy of risk among LGBTI people, with intersex, transgender and bisexual people reporting poorer mental health.

"This hierarchy of risk reflects the fact that more progress has been made on reducing homophobia in Ireland than biphobia and transphobia.

"This hierarchy of progress highlights the need for increased advocacy and support for bisexual, transgender and intersex people and to address the diversity of needs within the LGBTI community."

Former President Mary McAleese, who will launch the report today, described some of its findings as "horrifying".

She said: "The ongoing damage is undeniable. That it involves so many young people is tragic."

But she added the good news is that it is "solvable" as it would leave people "heart sore".

Odhrán Allen, of the support group GLEN, said: "The progress achieved for Irish LGBTI people in 2015 gives us solid ground for the urgent work necessary in our schools, communities, workplaces and in our homes."

Support is available at www.lgbt.ie and the national LGBT helpline at 1890 929 539.

Irish Independent

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