A new study has revealed the mental health impacts of social isolation on the LGBTIQ community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The University of Tasmania study heard from over 200 Tasmanians on their health and social needs during coronavirus lockdown.
The study found their concerns included mental health, loneliness, discrimination in healthcare, strained family relationships, and lack of connection with the LGBTIQ community during isolation. Just 9.8% of respondents strongly agreed with feeling part of their local community now, down from 18.1% prior to COVID-19.
One transgender respondent spoke of their “grief” at “losing access to my community” during lockdown.
They had also suffered misgendering by workmates while working remotely and had lost touch with trans folk while social distancing.
Another said, “Many friends in the community are restricted from the sense of belonging.
“[LGBTI specific social events provide] mental-health affirming visibility, safety and social interaction.”
One student spoke about having to leave their uni accommodation in Hobart as the COVID-19 crisis worsened.
“[I] have since had to move home to the north west and it has been an incredibly difficult time,” they said.
“Going back to Hobart isn’t an option. But being back home has been hard due to the anti-LGBT views shared by the community and members of my family.”
Another respondent said they were concerned for others, particularly youth, stuck in unsafe home environments.
“I’m fortunate that I am the queen of my castle at home and have made it safe for me. Others are not in that situation,” they said.
LGBTIQ Tasmanians overwhelmingly preferred support from LGBTIQ-specific organisations. However, some were concerned about the viability of these services post-pandemic.
Australian research similar to overseas COVID-19 research
Lead researcher Dr Ruby Grant said the study confirms locally what overseas research had also found.
“The health and social needs of LGBTIQ people can both suffer disproportionately and be overlooked by the authorities during public health emergencies,” Dr Grant said.
“The solutions are more funding for LGBTIQ support services and for the needs of LGBTIQ people to be factored into public health emergency planning.”
As well as additional funding, the researchers recommend more LGBTIQ-specific mental health services and supports for the wider community.
The study also recommended ongoing LGBTIQ-inclusive practice training for health workers factor in the specific impacts of COVID-19 on LGBTIQ people.
Dr Grant said her team plan to take the findings to Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein and state ministers.
Earlier this month, local group Working It Out launched a support network for LGBTIQ+ Tasmanians during the coronavirus pandemic.
Working It Out Together brings all LGBTIQ+ and Tasmanian-specific COVID-19 information together in an online portal.
There is also a volunteering service where people can get support in a range of areas, such as grocery delivery, dog walking, computer help or just a simple chat.
If you need support, help is always available. Call QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.
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