Today marks International Coming Out Day, a day dedicated to highlighting the positive impact and challenges faced by LGBT people in coming out around the world.
BeLonG To, the national organisation for LGBT young people in Ireland has supported thousands of LGBT young people in coming out over the last decade. “International Coming Out Day is a really important day to celebrate the bravery of lesbian, gay, bisexual & trans young people across Ireland”, said David Carroll, Executive Director of BeLonG To. “We know that young people are coming out in greater numbers, and at a younger age than ever before. However, too many young people fear that they will be rejected by their friends and families before coming out – a fear that can lead to intense anxiety and depression that can have lasting effect”.
Irish research shows that the time between when a young person realises that they are LGBT (on average 12 years-old) and when they ‘come out’ to others (on average at age 17) can be a period of great stress and mental health risk. A correlation has been established between homophobic bullying and poor mental health and often ‘coming out’ is vital part of resilience building for LGBT young people.
Mr Carroll continued: “Thankfully more and more young people tell us that they ‘come out’ to positive reactions - a great sign of the progress being made in Ireland in relation to LGBT issues. Today (Friday Oct 10th) being World Mental Health Day also serves to remind us of the importance of young people coming out in safe and appropriate ways. “
Coming out has a positive transformative affected not only on the LGBT young person, but on their friends, schools and families. Most often when a young person comes out the community around them accepts them and in turns becomes more informed, open and caring of all young people.
BeLonG To has a network of LGBT youth support groups nationwide where LGBT young people can access safe and supporting environments, have their identity affirmed and receive guidance and support through the ‘coming out’ process which is not a one-time event.
Mr. Carroll added that, “Without the dedicated support of the National Office for Suicide Prevention in the HSE, it would not have been possible for us to build a nationwide network of support services which are facing increasing demands from young people, families, schools and other professionals engaged in supporting the young people we work with”.