Figures from the LGBT+ community have opened up about their battles with mental health issues during the pandemic, in a recent virtual talk.
Co-hosted by National Student Pride and Attitude magazine in a bid to raise awareness of the impact the pandemic has so far had on LGBT+ people, the talk highlighted the urgent need to meet feelings of loneliness and isolation felt by many in the community.
Attitude editor-in-chief Cliff Joannou ran the panel discussion, which included Drag Race UK winner Lawrence Chaney; YouTuber, presenter, and author Daniel Howell; model and activist Munroe Bergdorf; and author and mental health campaigner Natasha Devon.
“Being lonely is not necessarily correlated to how many people you have around you. Not being able to express our identity can make us feel quite alone,” said Joannou. “LGBTQ people have found themselves among the most impacted. University students have moved back home, some forced to hide their gender or sexual identity and live with homophobic or transphobic families.
“The message is clear: loneliness and isolation are perhaps amongst the most urgent issues facing LGBTQ+ people and the pandemic has made it immensely more challenging for us.”
Comments made by the panel reflect recent survey findings from charity Just Like Us which show that feelings of loneliness and isolation are twice as common – 52% vs 27% – among young LGBT+ people compared with their non-LGBT+ peers.
The driving force behind these feelings is a lack of human connection, said Daniel Howell: “I always love to joke about how I don’t like humanity, but what this showed me is, even at the most extreme level, you need to feel a part of something, you need to feel seen, you need to feel heard, you need a community.
“Especially for queer people, to just know that there are other people like that out there. And for me being stuck inside and not having that I found it tough. I can’t imagine what it must be like for young people, especially students.”
Munroe Bergdorf, who transitioned 12 years ago, said speaking up and putting herself out there helped her connect with a new community.
She said: “When I started speaking about how I felt, I realised that I wasn’t the only one. I started to be able to connect with other people more, because I see my experience in humanity. I think that I wasn’t seeing my own humanity.
“I started speaking about my own struggles with self-sabotage and self-destruction and other people could see that in them as well and that relieves my shame, which relieves my isolation. It was a turning point in speaking up.”
This conversation kicked off National Student Pride’s week-long digital festival which lasted until April 25 and featured panels, entertainment, live performances, and a LGBT+ Careers Fair.
Student Pride’s co-chairman Maxwell Taylor told Talking Mental Health: “The last year has been the most difficult year of many young people’s lives. As the largest LGBT+ student event in the UK, National Student Pride recognises the crucial importance of talking about mental health issues at this moment, and the compounded issues faced by young LGBT+ people in particular.
“Working alongside Attitude magazine, we are delighted to share the honest and intimate conversation with Daniel Howell, Lawrence Chaney, Natasha Devon and Munroe Bergdorf, that resonates with every one of us.
The 45-minute video - released on YouTube on Wednesday - has gone on to exceed more than 6000 views as of April 22.
Written by Hedi Mehrez
News reporter for Talking Mental Health