Young LGBT+ people are twice as likely to feel lonely or worry about their mental health during the pandemic compared with non-LGBT+ people.
Revealed through a survey by LGBT+ charity Just Like Us, the findings have prompted calls for better protection and inclusion efforts for LGBT+ children and young adults.
Of around 1000 LGBT+ young people, out of a wider survey sample of 3000 secondary school pupils, 55% worry about their mental health on a daily basis, compared with 26% of their non-LGBT+ peers.
Feelings of loneliness and separation on a daily basis are also twice as common in LGBT+ young people, while 7 in 10 have experienced a worsening of their mental health compared with 1 in 2 non-LGBT+ people.
The effects of the pandemic are being felt at home with around a quarter of LGBT+ young people experiencing daily tensions at home (such as arguments with family), compared with 15% of non-LGBT+ people.
The data prompted chief executive of Just Like Us, Dominic Arnall, to describe the pandemic as “the biggest risk to the mental health of LGBT+ young people since Section 28."
Written into law in 1988, Section 28 was an amendment aimed at preventing the teaching of homosexuality in schools.
Arguments in support of the amendment cited anti-family values as well as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which at the time was heavily associated with homosexuality.
The amendment in its original form would remain law for 15 years until its eventual repeal in 2003.
Schools have since been free to teach about homosexuality and other sexual orientations, although the survey suggests that more work needs to be done to improve LGBT+ inclusion.
Half of the LGBT+ respondents said they have received no positive messaging about being LGBT+ at all from their school, which Just Like Us says suggests many schools "are not taking action to meet Ofsted requirements of preventing homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying."
“The pandemic has been a difficult period for everyone, but our research clearly demonstrates the impact of coronavirus and lockdown has not fallen equally," says Arnall.
"We cannot afford for progress made in LGBT+ education over the past 10 years to be swept aside during coronavirus."
Young LGBT+ people from an unaccepting family need to know they have teachers they can turn to, adds Arnall, who cites the rise in LGBT+ homelessness referrals since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as a key reason to ensure support.
“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."
Written by Marco Ricci
Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health