Concerns for the mental health of those in the LGBT community are growing, following a record number of calls to the LGBT helpline. Sean Dunne reports…
Last year, Ireland saw a record number of calls made to The LGBT Helpline. The helpline is a national support service for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Speaking at a volunteer recruitment drive, Paula Fagan said; “The LGBT helpline is struggling to meet demand for its services.”
Adding to this the Coordinator of the helpline said; “We could have answered significantly more calls last year if more volunteers had been available.”
The helpline is calling on more people to get involved to combat the growing concern in calls relating to people’s mental health.
Ms Fagan added that 60% of calls to the service last year were focused on mental health.
“In some cases, callers got in touch because their fear of coming out was causing them anxiety; in other cases, it was to speak about the impact on their mental health of homophobia,” added Ms Fagan.
The LGBT helpline thanked The National Office of Suicide Prevention, for the financial support they have given the service this year. The funding enables the service to continue providing mental health support to LGBT people.
The LGBT helpline received about 10,000 calls last year, but due to lack of funding and volunteers, only a quarter of those were answered.
“Our volunteers do excellent work and thanks to them we were able to extend our opening hours last year,” said Ms Fagan.
The demand for the service at the moment is much higher than the service can cope with and this has led to the incentive for the recruitment drive for additional volunteers.
Another issue was also highlighted at the drive and this was the growing need for female volunteers in Dublin. “We have significantly more male than female volunteers in our Dublin centre,” said Ms Fagan.
Surprisingly out of a group of 48 existing volunteers, only 10 are women at the centre. The LGBT helpline added that they were happy to accept volunteering applications from men, but they urged more women to step up and help out if possible.
The main issues arising in the mental health area for LGBT people were negative reactions from family members or friends. Adding to this was the pressure of isolation, harassment and bullying.
“Unfortunately, some LGBT people feel they don’t get the same level of support as heterosexual people during times of emotional distress,” added The LGBT helpline.
“The death of a partner can provide a double blow for an LGBT person, because in addition to dealing with their grief, they may not get the same reaction or support that a heterosexual person gets when they lose their spouse.”
The LGBT recruitment drive for volunteers will run over the next few weeks and will see a nationwide campaign take place. The service is calling on members of the LGBT to volunteer to help others in need of support.
The LGBT Helpline can be accessed on 1890 929539 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.