A new report shows that students at schools where there is positive LGBTQ+ messaging are less likely to contemplate suicide – Dazed speaks to charity Just Like Us about the findings
Respect differences and everyone benefits, a new report has found. The independent research, which studied almost 3,000 pupils across the UK, found that students whose schools engaged in positive messaging about being LGBTQ+ had reduced suicidal thoughts and feelings – regardless of their sexual orientation.
Carried out on behalf of youth empowering charity Just Like Us, the report uncovered some pretty upsetting statistics, such as the fact that LGBTQ+ young people are twice as likely to contemplate suicide, and Black LGBTQ+ young people are three times more likely. LGBTQ+ school pupils are also twice as likely to have been bullied, and 91% have heard negative language about being LGBTQ+ in the past year.
“When the pandemic began, we were really concerned about what this would mean for LGBTQ+ young people who may be living with unaccepting families, or learning in schools where they hear anti-LGBTQ+ language or are facing bullying,” Dominic Arnall, Just Like Us’s chief executive, tells Dazed. “Sadly, the independent research found that LGBTQ+ young people are disproportionately struggling with mental health and wellbeing, tension at home, and feeling far less safe in school.”
Our report shows for the first time that young people who attend schools who take part in LGBT+ inclusion work are likely to have better mental health outcomes than those who attend schools that don’t - whether they are LGBT+ or not.— Dominic Arnall (@Dominicarnall) June 15, 2021
He continues: “What may surprise some is that the research found that the majority of young people are pro-trans. 84 per cent of young people in the UK would be supportive of a friend coming out as transgender – and 57 per cent already have friends who are transgender – although they are less likely to think that their teachers at school would be supportive, meaning there is a lot of work to be done when it comes to inclusive education and we’re here to support schools to do this work so the burden is not on them.”
The charity runs School Diversity Week, a free annual initiative that takes place from June 21 to 25 this year. “We would love to see all primary schools, secondary schools, and colleges send a positive message by signing up,” Arnall adds. “We have resources for Early Years up to key stage 4. Our research found that young people are often unclear on what their school’s policy is on anti-LGBTQ+ bullying. Primary schools can send a positive message to their pupils by using our resources focused on acknowledging and celebrating different types of families – such as having lesbian mums or a trans sibling.”
The news comes at a time when Hungary has just passed a law banning gay people from featuring in school educational materials or TV shows for under-18s, something that Arnall sees as “incredibly dangerous and damaging to young people’s mental health and safety. When schools are honest about LGBTQ+ people existing, and having always existed throughout history, and being clear on how they deal with anti-LGBTQ+ bullying, all pupils are less likely to contemplate suicide.”
Despite the somewhat negative findings of the report, it’s encouraging to know that inclusive schools are happier, healthier places to be. “The stats are clear,” Arnall says, “having a LGBTQ+ inclusive culture is excellent for pupil wellbeing and creates an environment not only where young people feel safe and able to be themselves but where they can simply get on with their learning and thrive.”