In January, writing exclusively for Mental Health Today, Dominic Arnall, chief executive of LGBT+ young people's charity Just Like Us, expressed his concerns about lockdown isolation and young LGBT+ people's mental health.

These concerns were not unfounded, as new independent research commissioned by Just Like Us has revealed that the trauma of the pandemic has disproportionately affected young LGBT+ people, who are twice as likely as their peers to report feeling anxious daily about their mental health.

Furthermore, the data showed that the pandemic's mental health impact has primarily been felt by young Black LGBT+ people, who are significantly more likely than their White LGBT+ peers to report experiences of severe depression (61%), anxiety (58%), panic attacks (42%), and use of unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs or alcohol (15%).

Homophobia, biphobia and/or transphobia have combined with experiences of racism for these young people, to create a considerable mental health challenge. A Just Like Us young ambassador described the effect of the last year as “draining” due to the increasing racism and homophobia on social media and being made to feel like an ‘other’ due to racism from wider society and from homophobia from some sections of his community.

Also, others under the LGBT+ umbrella reported that they have routinely felt isolated and lonely over the last year, notably young lesbians with almost 9 in 10 reporting feelings of separation from the people that they are closest to, compared to 46% of gay boys, 54% of young bisexual people, and 52% of young transgender people.

Leadership and support are vital to address the LGBT+ mental health crisis

Amy Ashenden, head of comms and media for Just Like Us, commented that this report's findings demonstrate the importance of support networks, such as parents, school staff, and people who interact with these young people. And said it also emphasised schools' responsibility to take leadership on this issue and be part of the turnaround in promoting student wellbeing and mental health.

An across the school message of LGBT+ inclusivity has potentially been absent in some schools over the last year, as the research also found that most LGBT+ pupils have not received any inclusive LGBT+ messaging from their secondary school in that period.

Ms Ashenden explained: “We really need to see families and schools sending more positive messages about being LGBT+. They need to signal that they accept the young people in their lives and will support them in being themselves. Even if you don't think your child or pupils might be LGBT+, making it clear that you support people being LGBT+ is so important.”

She added: “Primary schools, secondary schools and colleges all have a role to play, and Just Like Us can help with free resources and lesson plans, our student-led Pride Groups programme, school talks and through School Diversity Week. And if teachers or school staff have questions, they can also just reach out to us – we're always happy to help.”