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Dillon, Lucy (2018) LGBTI+ Youth Strategy. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 67, Autumn 2018 , pp. 3-4.

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The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) has published the world’s first national LGBTI+ Youth Strategy.1 This follows on from a commitment in the 2016 Programme for Government to ‘develop an LGBT Youth Strategy that will encompass education, youth services, mental health and other issues’ (p. 106).2 A key part of the process of developing the strategy was a DCYA-led consultation with young people from across Ireland, the findings of which have also been published.3

 

LGBTI+ Youth Strategy

The LGBTI+ Youth Strategy document is structured around three goals:

 

1    Create a safe, supportive and inclusive environment for LGBTI+ young people.

2    Improve the mental, physical and sexual health and wellbeing of the entire LGBTI+ community.

3    Develop the research and data environment to better understand the lives of LGBTI+ young people.

 

Each of these goals is supported by a set of objectives and actions. Responsibility for delivering on them is spread across government departments, with actions that cover a wide variety of areas. These include schools, higher education institutions, health and social services, workplaces, youth services, and the wider community.

 

The findings of the consultation (as outlined below) were used to heavily inform the strategy. As with the consultation, the strategy identifies high levels of smoking, drug use, and alcohol consumption as one of the challenges faced by LGBTI+ young people in Ireland. It has a specific action to address young people’s call for more alcohol-free spaces in which to meet. Under the first goal, it commits to ‘map existing LGBTI+ youth services and groups and increase the awareness of these services and consider increasing the provision of non-alcoholic safe spaces which are inclusive of LGBTI+ young people’ (p. 21). Drug and alcohol use is not dealt elsewhere in the strategy but reference is made to the national drug and alcohol strategy.4

 

The consultation

There were two key strands to the consultation: an online survey and a series of consultation events. The consultations reached a total of 3,882 young people from across Ireland (n=3710 young people completed the survey; n=172 young people attended one of seven consultation events). While most of the participants identified themselves as a member of the LGBTI+ community (69% of survey respondents and 93% of event participants), the consultation was not limited to this group.

The consultations focused on three broad questions:

1    What is positive about being a young LGBTI+ person in Ireland today? (Positives)

2    What issues are faced by young LGBTI+ people in Ireland today? (Issues)

3    What changes would improve the lives of young LGBTI+ people? (Changes)

 

The findings

The extensive body of data collected was analysed thematically. A broad range of themes was identified, a detailed account of which is beyond the scope of this article. However, illustrations of the key findings in relation to each of the consultation’s three questions are:

 

Positives: There is less discrimination and an increased sense of acceptance and social support than there has been in the past. Examples of this included positive legal reform around marriage equality and equal status, and gender recognition legislation.

Issues: Despite improvements, there is an ongoing sense of discrimination and stigma attached to the LGBT community. Participants reported experiences of bullying and harassment, isolation and exclusion, among others.

Changes: Changes to education within schools and improved training for professionals on LGBTI inclusion and related issues were the most commonly cited areas of need.

 

The LGBTI+ community is identified in the national drug and alcohol strategy as one of a number of groups who experience a higher risk of problematic substance use than the general population.4

This was echoed in the findings from the consultation. Participants identified a culture of drug and alcohol misuse within their community, which had a negative impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing. Explanations provided for this higher level of use included that substances were used as ‘bad coping mechanisms to deal with exclusion’ (p. 80).3

 

Linked to a call by participants for improved access and delivery of mental health services was a call for improved access to early intervention and other drug-related services.

 

Concerns were also expressed about the lack of alcohol-free spaces and places for young LGBTI+ people to meet up. People’s experiences were that many of the ‘safe’ social spaces for meeting up were nightclubs that were also ‘hyper sexualised’ with a focus on ‘hooking up’ (p. 23). The shortage of safe alcohol-free spaces presented particular challenges and risks for those who were under 18 years of age. 

 

 1  Department of Children and Youth Affairs (2018) LGBTI+ national youth strategy 2018–2020. Dublin: Department of Children and Youth Affairs. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/29267/

2  Government of Ireland (2016) A programme for a partnership government. Dublin: Department of the Taoiseach. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/25508/

3  Fullerton D, McGrellis S, Power I, McKenna O and Velthuis S (2017) LGBTI+ national youth strategy: report of the consultations with young people in Ireland. Dublin: Department of Children and Youth Affairs. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/28323/

4 Department of Health (2017) Reducing harm, supporting recovery: a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017–2025. Dublin: Department of Health. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/27603/

Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 67, Autumn 2018
Date:November 2018
Page Range:pp. 3-4
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 67, Autumn 2018
EndNote:View
Subjects:T Demographic characteristics > Adolescent / youth (teenager / young person)
T Demographic characteristics > Homosexual, gay, bisexual or lesbian, LGBTI
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland

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