LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) young people in the North East are the loneliest in England, according to new research by Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people's charity.
Over half (57%) of LGBT+ young people in the North East report feeling lonely and separated from the people they’re closest to on a daily basis since the pandemic began – more than anywhere else in England.
In the UK generally, 52% of LGBT+ young people are feeling lonely on a daily basis, compared to 27% of young people who are not LGBT+.
In addition, a third (32%) of LGBT+ young people in the North East report experiencing daily tensions in the place they’re living during the pandemic, such as arguments with family, suggesting an increased chance of LGBT+ homelessness.
This is higher than the UK average of 25% of LGBT+ young people experiencing daily tensions at home, and compared to 15% of non-LGBT+ young people in the UK.
In addition, three in four LGBT+ young people (72%) in the North East say their mental health has ‘got worse’ since the pandemic began – higher than the UK average of 68% of LGBT+ young people saying their mental health has deteriorated.
By comparison, just half (49%) of non-LGBT+ young people in the UK say their mental health has got worse since the pandemic started.
Just Like Us' new, independent research
The independent research commissioned by Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity, surveyed 2,934 secondary school pupils (including 1,140 LGBT+ young people) in Years 7-13 (ages 11 to 18) across 375 UK schools and colleges in December 2020 and January 2021.
The study also found that LGBT+ young people in the UK are more than twice as likely to worry daily about mental health during the pandemic – 55% of LGBT+ 11 to 18 year olds in the UK are worrying daily about their mental health, compared to just 26% of non-LGBT+ young people.
Half (48%) of secondary school pupils in the UK say they have received little to zero positive messaging at school about being LGBT+ at all in the last 12 months, the independent research has found.
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.
LGBT+ young people more at risk
Coronavirus has particularly impacted the mental health of LGBT+ young people who are eligible for free school meals, Black, and/or have a disability.
Black LGBT+ young people in the UK are significantly more likely to be experiencing difficulties at home in lockdown, with a third (29%) reporting daily tension in the place they’re living, compared to a quarter (25%) of white LGBT+ young people.
Young lesbians are also experiencing higher levels of loneliness during the pandemic.
How schools can help
Chief Executive of charity Just Like Us, Dominic Arnall, has called for schools in the North East to send a positive message of acceptance to their LGBT+ pupils, who are particularly struggling at this time.
“This is the biggest risk to the mental health of LGBT+ young people since Section 28,” says Dominic Arnall, Chief Executive of Just Like Us.
“The pandemic has been a difficult period for everyone, but our research clearly demonstrates the impact of coronavirus and lockdown has not fallen evenly. We cannot afford for progress made in LGBT+ education to be swept aside during coronavirus.
“LGBT+ young people living with families who are unaccepting or unaware of their children’s identities in lockdown need to know there are teachers they can turn to.
“For LGBT+ school pupils, hearing that it’s OK to be themselves is the single most important thing they need right now to turn around this mental health crisis.
“It's important the pressures of this time are not passed on to schools who are already overburdened with work. Sign up to School Diversity Week at www.justlikeus.org and we will ensure you have everything you need to support your pupils.
“There are some fantastic schools in the North East that are already doing this work for their pupils’ wellbeing, such as Ian Ramsey Church of England Academy and Park View School, and we hope many more will take part in School Diversity Week this year – whether in person or online.
“We have free, LGBT+ inclusive resources available for all primary schools, secondary schools and colleges available, all they need to do is sign up for School Diversity Week, or get in touch and talk to us.”