Raising mental health awareness at Pride

 Raising mental health awareness at Pride

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is taking the opportunity during the Belfast Pride Festival to raise awareness about the importance of looking after our mental and emotional wellbeing.
The 25th Belfast Pride Festival starts today (Friday 24 July) and runs until Sunday 2 August.

Madeline Heaney, Regional Lead for Mental and Emotional Wellbeing at the PHA, said: “Belfast Pride Festival offers us a great opportunity to celebrate diversity and help raise awareness of the particular health issues faced by the LGB&T community. Evidence suggests that LGB&T people are at a statistically higher risk of mental health problems including anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal behaviour.”

A 2013 study found that nearly two thirds (64.7%) of LGB&T respondents had personal, emotional, behavioural or mental health problems for which they needed professional help. However, only 39% had asked for professional help [see reference 1].
“Many people go through times when they feel they can’t cope,” said Madeline Heaney. “If you’re feeling like this, you should know that you are not alone and you can get through it. Talking to someone you trust can be the first step towards recovery and can make a real difference.”

The PHA recently commissioned a number of new services focusing on addressing the specific mental and emotional wellbeing needs of the LGB&T community, with a total of £50,000 per year being allocated. Services will run for a minimum of three years.
Funding has been allocated to Rainbow Health Limited to deliver support for the mental health and emotional wellbeing needs of lesbian and bisexual women and gay and bisexual men. New services have also been commissioned to support transgender individuals and their families, which will be delivered by Support Acceptance Information Learning (SAIL) Community Interest Company.

John O'Doherty, Director of The Rainbow Project, said: "We are delighted to have been commissioned by the PHA to further develop services and support for LGB&T people in Northern Ireland. Sadly, too many LGB&T people in Northern Ireland experience poor mental health due to experiences of homophobia and transphobia. Through the support from the PHA we hope to reach more of those people who are isolated or invisible to address these issues and help them achieve their full potential."

Director of SAIL Nicola Doran said: “SAIL has worked tirelessly for a number of years across Northern Ireland to address the barriers that transgender people and their families face in accessing support and services.

“We are absolutely delighted that the project is being supported by the Public Health Agency and we appreciate the support of all our volunteers and partners in the voluntary community and statutory sectors. For anyone affected by gender identity issues we hope that coming forward for support now is a more positive experience and that we will see better care and understanding for transgender people and their families across all services in Northern Ireland.”

More information on looking after your mental health and the support which is available across Northern Ireland can be found at www.mindingyourhead.info

You can also talk to your GP for advice.

If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a confidential service, where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow up with other support if necessary. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also access the Lifeline website at www.lifelinehelpline.info

Notes to the editor

Photo caption: Raising mental health awareness at Pride: Ellen Murray (Trans Youth Worker, SAIL), Madeline Heaney (Regional Lead for Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing, Public Health Agency) and John O’Doherty (Director, Rainbow Project). The PHA is using the Belfast Pride Festival to raise awareness with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people about the importance of looking after their mental health

For further information on the Belfast Pride Festival, visit www.belfastpride.com

Staff from the Public Health Agency will be available to provide a range of information on health and wellbeing issues and key messages relating to Public Health will appear on the “Big Screen” at the Pride event on Saturday 1 August.

Research referenced:
1. O’Hara M. Through our minds. Exploring the emotional health and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Northern Ireland. Belfast: The Rainbow Project, 2013.