Services going at a time one-third of LGBT Londoners are experiencing mental health issues, writes FELICITY COLLIER at Congress House
THE LGBT community is disproportionately affected by underfunded public health services, the TUC LGBT conference heard yesterday.
Unison member Eileen Best, who works in health and social care, told delegates that services are dwindling at a time when a third of LGBT people living in London experience mental health issues, a rate 15 per cent higher than the wider population.
A London Assembly report earlier this year, in which that statistic appears, showed that LGBT people are often overlooked when their needs are assessed and decisions are made about their conditions because of a lack of specific data and poor consultation.
Ro Marsh of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association said her organisation’s members in mental health were “acutely aware” of the effects of government funding cuts.
LGBT people are twice as likely as heterosexuals to have suicidal thoughts or make suicidal attempts, she added, citing figures from the LGBT Foundation.
The charity’s findings also show that over half of gay young people deliberately harm themselves — for young people in general, that figure is about 10 per cent.
In a motion overwhelmingly supported by delegates, the Musicians Union called for government policy to respond to the needs of LGBT people, adding that LGBT organisations must be involved in the shaping of the mental health services offered.
Equity member Giovanni Bienne echoed the sentiment, saying: “Mental health provision should reflect the issues of LGBT people.” He cited one example as “microaggressions, barriers you constantly have to negotiate — they might not be insurmountable, but you still have to deal with them.”
PCS member Tony Moore, who introduced himself as gay and disabled, said that LGBT people are at a higher risk of addiction problems and blamed a “backdrop of cuts to services and continued austerity.”
He also highlighted the Tories’ neglect of older LGBT people that has left them with no social housing care provision.
In a warning to the Conservatives, Mr Moore said: “We are an electorate in waiting.”
Karen Shaw of teaching union NASUWT stressed that LGBT people needed more support in often hostile environments.
She said: “When LGBT children in schools report having anxiety and mental health needs, it isn’t because they are inherently more susceptible, it’s because school and homes don’t always know how to support them.”
Some children “self-medicate” by not attending school, she added.