Pride in Mind have been awarded a grant from People’s Health Trust, using money raised by Health Lottery North East and Cumbria, to continue their monthly meetings, social activities and support services for LGBTQ+ people with mental health problems living in Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead and Sunderland.
This project showcases the importance of social connections as a vital underpinning factor of healthy neighbourhoods and communities. LGBT+ people face due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. Where those communities live in areas experiencing the highest levels of disadvantage or also identify with another community experiencing health inequalities then they are more likely to face poor long-term health outcomes and a reduced life expectancy.
All project participants at Pride in Mind identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community and have had lived experience of mental health issues. Some participants are refugees, disabled, have long-term physical health conditions and come from low-income backgrounds. Because of this, participants often face multiple barriers and have faced multiple types of discriminations.
Due to the complexity of issues participants face, the social support group aspect of the project is a great way for people to make connections with people who have similar lived experiences and be able to form bonds to seek peer support about different issues.
The experiences of LGBT+ people in social, family and work life contribute to disproportionately worse health impacts. Whilst information on gender and sexuality relating to a person’s physical health outcomes is not reported, in some areas such as mental health the health inequalities are more clear. For example, we know that one in eight LGBTQ+ people aged 18-24 have attempted to end their life.
LGBT+ people are also less able to access traditional healthcare as easily. Following the UK government’s National LGBT Survey in 2018, the NHS said: “The evidence that LGBT people have disproportionately worse health outcomes and experiences of healthcare is both compelling and consistent.”
Alongside this barrier, LGBT+ people are also less able to seek support from peers due to social isolation. According to the National LGBT Survey published in 2018 at least two in five respondents had experienced an incident because they were LGBT, such as verbal harassment or physical violence, in the 12 months preceding the survey. This experience of hate crime contributes to feelings of social isolation and means LGBT+ people are often cut off from support networks.
Pride in Mind host monthly support groups where a trained counsellor is present and members are able to access this safe space to share their experiences. They also organise social activities relevant to the community such as LGBTQ+ theatre and film outings which are free to project participants.
These activities where people can form social connections are important as it means that the participants who have faced social and economic barriers and discrimination previously can seek support from people with the lived experience to understand. Social isolation can lead to a shortened life expectancy and long-term health conditions and so forming these social connections has a directly positive health impact.
Forming social connections also has longer term impacts and allows people the confidence and support to make other changes. For example, Pride in Mind have formed collaborations across North East England where they have been able to influence other groups to gain a better understanding of mental health and contribute to the organisation of Northern Pride.
Through participating in Pride in Mind the project members are influencing and educating their neighbourhood to understand the barriers LGBT+ people face and are creating a safer space for people to live openly in their sexuality and gender identity.
Pride in Mind has been organising more face to face meetups following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and is hoping to welcome more people to their events. If you want to get involved in the group you can find contact details here.