A third of Ireland’s LGBTI teenagers have attempted suicide, according to a report endorsed by Mary McAleese
The LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) Ireland report found that younger LGBTI people suffer from lower self-esteem than those over 26. In the largest study into the mental health of LGBTI individuals in Ireland, statistics showed that seven in ten 14-18 year olds have had suicidal thoughts, one in three have attempted suicide and almost six in ten had self-harmed.
Odhran Allen of GLEN (Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) said though being LGBTI did not increase the chances of poor mental health, the anxiety felt from being subject to bullying leads to a higher risk of attempted suicide.
“There are worrying levels of severe stress, anxiety and depression among LGBTI people,” he said.
“It’s the experience of being bullied, being rejected or being harassed because you are LGBTI that leads to higher levels of self harm and attempted suicide.”
Within the school setting, the research showed that 67 per cent of students had witnessed bullying of other LGBTI pupils, while half had experienced anti- LGBTI bullying themselves. One young, bisexual and transgender person said they were “ashamed and angry” because “people in school used fag to insult one another.” Another gay 15-year old revealed how “students wrote faggot in permanent marker on my cheek.”
One in four students said they had considered leaving school early as a result of the attitudes towards LGBTI students, while one in 20 had actually quit school. LGBTI youngsters have also reported feeling unsafe in Ireland’s street due to their sexual orientation. Ciara Sheehan, 18, from Drimnagh, said: “If you’re holding hands with a girlfriend you have to be careful what area you are walking through.
“You get derogatory stares and men can say things that are not nice.
“My way of dealing with it is to brush it off. I will never see these people again. Still, it can make you feel quite unsafe.”
The report, which included a survey of more than 2,200 LGBTI people, was carried out by researchers from Trinity College Dublin and was led by Professor Agnes Higgins. Professor Higgins said she was saddened by some of the despair and hurt expressed by many of those who took part in the survey. However, Dr Carol- Anne O’Brien of BeLonG To, a national organisation offering support to people aged 14-23, said it was essential that LGBTI individuals and their families realise that they are not alone.
“There are LGBTI youth and community services across the country.
“Schools, mental health services and other support agencies are being increasingly proactive about creating safe and supportive environments for the LGBTI people in their care – the report highlights the urgent need to accelerate this work,” she explained.
This was something Ciara said she was proud of, since her school, Loreto College in Crumlin, supports its students with its ‘Stand Up’ programme that aims to stamp out homophobic bullying.
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