Inequality a major mental health risk for LGBT people in rural Scotland…

… and COVID-19 is making this bad situation worse


New report from LGBTI social policy charity, Equality Network, highlights the true experience of minority stress and heightened poor mental health for LGBT people living in rural Scotland. Some of the experiences shared within the report make for sombre reading:

‘There will be some who won’t have the resilience I did; there are almost certainly kids growing up [in rural Scotland] right now who won’t make it out alive.’ (Lesbian woman, Lorne)

The report details how social inequalities, prejudice and discrimination as well as a lack of access to inclusive and equalities competent services can have a detrimental effect on wellbeing and mental health.

It states that 86% of LGBT people living rurally who answered related questions had experienced poor mental health. 62% had considered taking their own life and 27% had attempted to complete suicide.

As well as presenting statistical data, the report shares the qualitative experiences gathered between 2017 and 2020 of LGBT individuals living rurally.

Many individuals state explicitly that they are aware of how discrimination and prejudice, coupled with feeling unable to express themselves freely, has a direct impact on their mental health.

The stories shared shine a light on experiences that may explain why many within the LGBT community suffer poor mental health:

 ‘I am moving away from the islands to a city because I feel that LGBT people cannot live a full and comfortable life here.’

‘I got asked to leave a local bar as “people like me aren’t welcome there”.

‘I have been surrounded and spat upon, then knocked to the ground.’

‘[I] have witnessed a trans person have to run for their life.’

The report highlights the main factors in minority stress, and subsequently, poor mental health experienced as an LGBT+ person living rurally in Scotland. These include the perception of socially ‘conservative communities,’ ‘traditional gender roles and misogyny,’ religion, suppression of one’s identity in rural spaces, a lack of LGBT visibility, awareness and safe inclusive spaces as well as, isolation and poor access to services.

The report also makes clear that the disproportionate effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic has heightened health and social inequalities and placed this minority group living rurally at an even higher risk of poor mental health.

 Rebecca Crowther, Policy Coordinator at Equality Network, said

‘We have long known that the LGBT community, wherever they live, suffer disproportionately with poor mental health due to inequalities, lack of LGBT awareness, lack of visibility, lack of access, rising hate crime, prejudice, bullying and a lack of acceptance as well as the historical marginalisation of LGBT people. We now know that this prevalence of poor mental health within the community is worsening, and COVID-19 is only set to exacerbate this. Isolation, being stuck at home, de-prioritisation of health services and online toxicity has heightened feelings of loneliness and desperation amongst the community, particularly for young people and for the elder LGBT community.’

Jim Hume, Convener of the National Rural Mental Health Forum, Support in Mind Scotland, said

‘We are delighted to have been involved in this important report by the Equality Network, which has given us valuable evidence of the challenges faced by the LGBTI+ community in rural Scotland, especially during the Covid-19 crisis. It is now for all of us to work together in finding solutions to better support those at risk of experiencing poor mental health’

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