Saturday 16 December 2017

Ireland's oldest gay support service celebrates 40 years

Jason Kennedy

Jason Kennedy

The oldest support service for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is celebrating 40 years in operation, but reminds people that times can still be difficult for LGBT people.

The Gay Switchboard are celebrating 40 years in operation with a redesign of their brand and website. The charity want to emphasise that LGBT people in Ireland often face stigma which can lead to poor mental, emotional and sexual health, which can lead to a higher risk of self-harm and suicide.

During the launch, switchboard director Tony Cooney cited a 2013 report by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, showing that gay people are seven times more likely to attempt suicide. Mr Cooney also mentioned the UK report ‘Youth Chances’,  which launched in January. This report highlights that over half of young gay people suffer with mental health issues, with over 40pc having considered suicide at some stage.

 "It is an exciting and challenging time for our service. Innovative new ways of reaching out and the commitment our dedicated volunteers means that we have been able to expand our services to the community with a weekly face to face ‘drop in’ service," Mr Cooney said.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte attended the redesign and said he was delighted to be there.

"The fact that Gay Switchboard has existed for 40 years demonstrates a need that clearly remains valid today. I have no doubt every volunteer that's been a part of the service has made a difference to someone in Irish society.  I salute those volunteers."

Labour TD John Lyons was also at hand, stating how necessary a service like this is.

"Obviously we've known for a long time that issues of suicide are much stronger that the national average when it comes to young gay men. I'm not surprised by that figure," he said.

"I think that ties in exactly with what the Gay Switchboard are trying to do, which is offering someone to talk to because we know when people are in a very, very tough spot in their lives ant they don't have someone to turn to, that's when they often turn to other consequences there are no way back from, such as taking their own life.

"Not everybody in society has someone to talk to about issues, particularly when it comes to their sexuality."

The Gay Switchboard is available seven days a week and can be contacted on 01-872 1055.

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