Dr Ranj Singh writes for GuysLikeU about teaming up with Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess Of Cambridge to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
It’s a sad truth that mental health problems amongst young people, especially those identifying as LGBT+, are increasing.
It’s a tragedy that the same people are less likely to speak up and access help when they most need it. That’s not a surprise when 55% have experienced direct bullying, and 1 in 5 do not even feel safe in school.
It’s a complete and utter travesty that because of things like this, suicide rates are going up. 52% of LGBT+ young people report experiencing self-harm either now or in the past, and 44% have even considered suicide. That is vastly greater than the general population.
What’s going on? How come, when the LGBT+ community has overcome so many medical, social and legal challenges over the years, we are still failing the most vulnerable? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer.
Thanks to the wonderful work of organizations like Stonewall, there has been a massive shift towards equal rights for all regardless of gender identity or sexuality. The problem is that progress has revealed a massive underlying need that society as a whole is only just waking up to: mental health. 1 in four of us will experience mental health issues at some point in our lifetime. This is a big problem for society – it’s even bigger for LGBT+ people, especially those growing up.
Addressing that need is going to take a massive amount of time, work and funding – and we’re only just waking up to that reality. If we’re going to do anything at all then it has to start with enabling people to talk and seek help. That means dealing with stigma – something that LGBT+ people will be all too familiar with.
Getting society to talk more isn’t an easy task. That’s because mental health problems can be scary for some. We fear what we don’t understand, so it’s easier to pretend it doesn’t exist. This has to change, and fortunately it is starting to now, with the help of some important people.
This week saw the launch of the #HeadsTogether campaign. This is a massive collaboration of eight charities, spearheaded by Prince William, Princess Kate and Prince Harry, aiming to tackle mental health stigma at all levels and improve access to help. I’ve been involved directly with three of those charities (Best Beginnings, The Mix and Young Minds) all of which do fantastic work with young people.
What’s especially important is this is the first time in history that the royals have fronted such an ambitious project. Because of that people will listen, and hopefully that will lead to real change – not just in talking about it but in the services we provide. It will lead to change in how we view mental health, change in how we deal with it, and hopefully a change in the lives of those who experience difficulties with it.
I’m hopeful that one day, mental health will be treated on the same level as physical health. I hope that everyone experiencing mental health issues will be able to get the help and support they need, regardless of their sex, gender identity or sexuality. We have a very long way to go, but I’m glad there are so many wonderful organisations working hard together to make it happen. And I’m so grateful that we have the support of Wills, Kate & Harry.
This week is #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. More information on the #HeadsTogether campaign and the charities involved can be found at (https://www.headstogether.org.uk).