Just Like Us releases Growing up LGBT+ report on bullying, schools and mental health

by Just Like Us
November 2021

Cover of Just Like Us' Growing Up LGBT+ report into LGBT+ young people's mental health and experiences at school

LGBT+ school pupils are twice as likely to have been bullied and 91% have heard negative language about being LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) in the past year, a new independent research report by charity Just Like Us has found.

The independent research of 2,934 pupils aged 11-18 (1,140 of whom were LGBT+) and 513 educators across the UK was conducted independently by Cibyl and found that pupils in schools with strong positive messaging around being LGBT+ were also less likely to experience suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Anti-LGBT+ bullying

42% of LGBT+ school pupils have been bullied in the past year, double the number of non-LGBT+ pupils (21%). 1 in 5 (18%) LGBT+ pupils didn’t tell anyone they’d been bullied and just 21% told a teacher at school.

Only 33% of LGBT+ pupils say there is a clear process for reporting anti-LGBT+ bullying in their school.

LGBT+ pupils who have come out are significantly more likely to be bullied. For example, 14% of LGBT+ pupils who aren’t out to anyone said they’ve experienced biphobic bullying, but this doubles to 28% among LGBT+ pupils who have come out.

Positive LGBT+ messaging in schools is linked to improved mental health

The report, Growing Up LGBT+, found that pupils whose schools had positive messaging about being LGBT+ also had reduced suicidal thoughts and feelings – regardless of whether they are LGBT+ or not.

74% of LGBT+ pupils who have never had positive messaging from their school about being LGBT+ have contemplated suicide but this drops to 65% when their school provides strong positive messaging about being LGBT+.

Non-LGBT+ pupils also benefit from LGBT+ inclusion in school – 33% of non-LGBT+ pupils who have never had positive messaging at school have contemplated suicide but this drops to 28% when there is strong positive messaging in their school.

LGBT+ school staff are afraid to come out

The independent research also found that only 40% of LGBT+ primary and secondary school staff are out to their pupils, signalling that the majority of LGBT+ teachers feel forced into hiding who they are, their families or who they are married to at work.

Further key findings from Just Like Us’ report Growing up LGBT+: The impact of school, home and coronavirus on LGBT+ young people include:

  • LGBT+ young people are twice as likely to contemplate suicide, and Black LGBT+ young people are three times more likely.
  • LGBT+ pupils feel far less safe at school. Only 58% of LGBT+ young people have felt safe at school on a daily basis in the past 12 months, compared to 73% of non-LGBT+ pupils.
  • LGBT+ pupils who have come out report feeling even less safe, and are even more likely to experience bullying. 68% of LGBT+ pupils who haven’t told anyone they are LGBT+ feel safe on a daily basis at school, compared to only 57% of LGBT+ pupils who have come out to at least one person.
  • LGBT+ pupils are three times more likely to experience sexual harassment (7% of LGBT+ pupils have experienced unwanted sexual touching, including 12% of bisexual girls, compared to 2% of their non-LGBT+ peers)
  • 1 in 4 (25%) LGBT+ young people are facing daily tension at home, compared to 15% of non-LGBT+ young people.
  • LGBT+ young people are half as likely to be ‘very close’ to their family (27% compared to 50% of non-LGBT+ young people) and half as likely to think their family understands the things that are important to them (9% compared to 25% of non-LGBT+ young people)
  • Half of pupils (48%) have had little to zero positive messaging about being LGBT+ at school in the last 12 months.
  • LGBT+ young people are three times more likely to self-harm (31% have self-harmed, compared to 9% of non-LGBT+ young people) and experience drug or alcohol dependence (6% compared to 2% of non-LGBT+ young people)
  • LGBT+ young people are twice as likely to have depression, anxiety and panic attacks as well as be lonely and worry about their mental health on a daily basis.
  • 68% of LGBT+ young people say their mental health has ‘got worse’ since the pandemic, compared to 49% of their non-LGBT+ peers.
  • Disabled LGBT+ young people are more likely to struggle with and worry about their mental health
  • The majority (84%) of young people are pro-trans but are less likely to think their teachers are (76%).
  • 43% of school staff are unsure if colleagues would be comfortable coming out as LGBT+ at their school.
  • A third (31%) of LGBT+ primary and secondary staff say their colleagues and school board are a barrier to doing LGBT+ inclusion with their pupils.
  • Only 40% of LGBT+ primary and secondary staff are out to their pupils

Just Like Us’ report, Growing Up LGBT+, was conducted independently by Cibyl, the largest provider of market research and data into students’ and graduates’ career thinking.

Dominic Arnall, Chief Executive of Just Like Us, has called for primary schools, secondary schools and colleges to demonstrate to their LGBT+ pupils that they are safe and welcome in their places of learning.

“Our report, conducted independently by Cibyl, into the experiences of LGBT+ young people growing up in the UK in 2021 has revealed some horrifying news – LGBT+ pupils are twice as likely to be bullied and contemplate suicide but the good news is that schools with an inclusive culture also see a reduction in pupils’ suicidal thoughts and feelings, and have a positive impact on all pupils’ mental health, regardless of whether they are LGBT+ or not.

“We are really concerned too by the high number of school staff members who feel they have to hide being LGBT+ in their jobs and it is awful to see that Section 28 continues to have a knock-on effect on school staff in 2021.

“The independent research undoubtedly shows that LGBT+ pupils are disproportionately struggling but also shows that sending positive messages of LGBT+ acceptance goes hand-in-hand with positive outcomes for all pupils – School Diversity Week this 21-25 June is a fantastic way for schools to begin doing this.”

Richard Kaye, Head of International Public Affairs and member of the EMEA Diversity & Inclusion Council at J.P. Morgan, which sponsored the report, said: “We are proud to build on our collaboration with Just Like Us by sponsoring this latest piece of research commissioned by the charity to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on LGBT+ young people.

“The report makes for sombre reading and rightly calls for all of us to reflect on the significance of the challenges facing the youngest members of the LGBT+ community. Our hope is that these findings act as a clarion call for everyone involved in the care of LGBT+ young people, particularly schools and parents, to take action.”

Just Like Us’ independent research was carried out between December 2020 and January

A total of 2,934 pupils from 375 schools and colleges across the UK were surveyed, 1,140 of whom identified as LGBT+ (39%), as well as 513 school staff.