Secondary school pupils who are eligible for free school meals and LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans) are facing increased mental health crises, and are three times more likely to have drug or alcohol dependence.
Secondary school pupils eligible for free school meals are also facing significantly more tension at home during lockdown, and those who are also LGBT+ are even more impacted, according to a new independent study of almost 3,000 pupils by Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people's charity.
Secondary school pupils eligible for free school meals are twice as likely to have alcohol or drug dependence (6% compared to 3%) and pupils who are eligible for free school meals and also LGBT+ are three times more likely (9%).
One in four (26%) secondary school pupils eligible for free school meals is experiencing daily tensions in the place they’re living, such as arguments with family, compared to 16% of secondary school pupils not eligible for free school meals. One in three (34%) secondary school pupils who are both eligible for free school meals and LGBT+ are experiencing daily tensions at home.
Pupils eligible for free school meals are more likely to be feeling lonely and separated from the people they’re closest to on a daily basis (44% compared to 36% of those not eligible). The statistics are graver for pupils eligible for free school meals who are also LGBT+ (61%).
Pupils eligible for free school meals are more likely to report their mental health getting worse since the pandemic began (62% compared to 56% of pupils not eligible), and this is significantly worse for pupils who eligible for free school meals and are also LGBT+ (75%).
In addition, pupils eligible for free schools are more likely to be worrying daily about the state for their mental health (45% compared to 35% who aren’t eligible). This rockets to 64% for pupils eligible for free school meals who are also LGBT+.
The survey of 2,934 secondary school pupils (1,140 of whom were LGBT+ and 486 said they are eligible for means-tested funding) by Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people's charity, found that 55% of LGBT+ 11 to 18 year olds are worried about their mental health on a daily basis, compared to just 26% of their non-LGBT+ peers.
Half (48%) of all secondary school pupils say they have received little to no positive messaging at school about being LGBT+. According to Just Like Us’ research, 18% say they have had zero positive messaging and 30% say they have only had positive messaging one or twice in the last 12 months.
The data forms part of a larger report into inclusive education and the experiences of LGBT+ young people that charity Just Like Us is due to publish in June 2021.
Dominic Arnall, Chief Executive of Just Like Us says: “We are really concerned by the findings from our research, which shows that secondary school pupils who are LGBT+ and eligible for free school meals are facing significantly higher rates of mental health struggles. It's clear from our research that the impact of coronavirus and lockdowns have not fallen evenly.
“We know that LGBT+ young people generally are twice as likely to feel lonely and more than twice as likely to worry for their mental health on a daily basis during the pandemic than their non-LGBT+ peers.
“LGBT+ young people who are eligible for free school meals are having to cope with multiple challenges during the pandemic and we see this reflected in the data – we are really concerned for these vulnerable young people and at Just Like Us we know how important it is that LGBT+ young people get positive messaging and support about being themselves at school and at home.
“If young people feel safe and welcome at school and know they can be themselves, they are more likely to feel able to ask for support during this difficult time.
“If any schools are worried about their pupils or would like help or advice with supporting their pupils, we really urge them to get in touch with Just Like Us as we can provide this support and free inclusive education resources.
“We know this is a very difficult time for everyone and it’s also important that the burden doesn’t fall on school staff who are already under immense pressure – that’s why Just Like Us is here to help and we have free educational resources available to support you.”
Schools can sign up now to take part in School Diversity Week – it’s free and you’ll receive a toolkit of resources.
Childline on this 'particularly hard' time for LGBT+ young people
Childline's Service Head, Wendy Robinson, says: "We know it’s been a very difficult time for young people, with Childline delivering more than 61,000 counselling sessions about mental health and emotional wellbeing since lockdown measures were introduced last year.
"The increased pressure and time spent in the home can be particularly hard for LGBT+ young people who may have felt cut off from their usual support networks and friends.
"Childline is available for all young people to contact about any concern or worry, while our message boards allow them to discuss their problems safely with peers in a similar situation."
Just Like Us is proud to consult with the NSPCC on all our procedures around working with young people.
Are you a young person who needs support?
If you've been affected by this news and need help or support, please call Childline on 0800 1111 or visit www.childline.org.uk.