LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) young people 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, new research by Just Like Us has found.
One in four LGBT+ secondary school pupils are experiencing daily tensions in the place they are living, while half say they have received no positive messaging at school about being LGBT+ at all (18%) or have only had positive messaging once or twice in the last 12 months (30%).
One in five young people say they have received no positive messaging from their school about being LGBT+, which suggests that a significant number of schools are not taking action to meet Ofsted requirements of preventing homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.
In addition, LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) young people are twice as likely as their non-LGBT peers to have felt lonely and separated from the people they are closest to on a daily basis during lockdown.
The survey of 2,934 secondary school pupils (1,140 of whom were LGBT+) by Just Like Us, the charity for LGBT+ young people, 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.
The data forms part of a larger report into inclusive education and the experiences of LGBT+ young people that Just Like Us will publish in June 2021.
Seven in 10 LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) young people also say their mental health has worsened since the pandemic began, compared with half of non-LGBT+ young people.
Coronavirus has particularly impacted the mental health of LGBT+ young people who are eligible for free school meals, transgender, Black and/or have a disability.
One secondary school pupil, Matthew, is 14, pansexual and from Coventry. He says: “It has been a really scary time for everyone.”
Matthew has been one of few pupils going into school during lockdown and says: “I definitely feel less motivated and it’s very quiet.
“I also have had some panic attacks and am worried about being forgotten.
“If you don’t have a home life where people are accepting of being LGBT+, you need it to be accepted at school so you know it’s OK.”
LGBT+ young people eligible for free schools also report higher levels of mental health deterioration, with eight in 10 saying their mental health worsened since the pandemic began.
In addition, two thirds of transgender young people say their mental health has worsened, compared to half of young people who are not transgender.
One in four LGBT+ young people say they have experienced daily tensions in the place they are living (such as arguments with family) compared with 15% of non-LGBT+ people.
A third of trans young people (29%) have experienced daily tensions in their ‘home’, compared to one in five non-trans young people.
The independent study 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 schools and colleges in December 2020 and January 2021.
Chief Executive of charity Just Like Us, Dominic Arnall, has called for schools to ensure LGBT+ young people, who are more than twice as likely to be worrying daily about the state of their mental health, to be supported during this difficult 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 equally. We cannot afford for progress made in LGBT+ education over the past 10 years 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 – we have already seen a rise in LGBT+ homelessness referrals since covid began and it’s important we take action now to support them.
“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.
“When you continuously de-prioritize LGBT+ inclusion, you’re repeatedly telling LGBT+ young people that they don’t exist, don’t matter, there’s something wrong with them, and no one is there to look out for them.
“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.
“At Just Like Us our role to support schools in sending positive messages to LGBT+ young people during this difficult time. We have free, LGBT+ inclusive resources available for all schools, all they need to do is sign up for School Diversity Week, or get in touch and talk to us.”
School staff can contact Just Like Us for help and advice with supporting their LGBT+ pupils by emailing email@example.com.