BeLonG To Youth Services, the national organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI+) young people, today launched their Annual Report 2017, and celebrated the organisation’s 15th birthday with Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone TD.
Since 2003, the youth organisation has supported LGBTI+ young people in Dublin and soon after nationwide. In 2017, BeLonG To supported 37 LGBTI+ youth groups across Ireland connecting rural and often isolated, LGBTI+ young people with an LGBTI+ peer support group led by professional Youth Workers.
The youth organisation opened two new services in its flagship Dublin office during 2017 to further support the level of mental health challenges experienced by service users. In partnership with Pieta House, they introduced a free counselling service for LGBTI+ young people who are self-harming or thinking of suicide. ‘Monday Chats’ a weekly one on one support service was also created to offer information, advice, and support for LGBTI+ young people, parents, and professionals.
According to Irish research1, LGBTI+ young people are three times more likely to attempt suicide, and twice as likely to self-harm, compared to the general population of young people.
Last year BeLonG To also trained over 700 professionals across the fields of community development, mental health, and education breaking down barriers associated with LGBTI+ identity, educating individuals around terminology, and inspiring participants to support their LGBTI+ colleagues, friends, and community members.
Ireland’s largest anti-bullying event in second-level schools, Stand Up Awareness Week, which is run by BeLonG To reached over 150,000 students across Ireland bringing the topics of homophobic, transphobic and biphobic bullying to the fore, and offered teachers the support and training they need to address these topics in the classroom.
Speaking at the launch of the event, Minister Katherine Zappone, TD commented:
“Despite Ireland’s lead on equality there are still young members of the LGBTI+ community who feel isolated, rejected and intimidated. BelonG To offers compassion, support and solidarity. It is a vital service and as a campaigner, advocate and independent Minister I support this work.
In the coming weeks Ireland will again show leadership with our new LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy. It is the result of a consultation process which listened to over 4,000 young people – and a world first! Young voices are the loudest in demanding equality and rights. I am always proud to join them.”
Moninne Griffith, Executive Director of BeLonG To Youth Services added:
“15 years ago, Ireland was a different country for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people. Since we opened our doors in 2003, we have transformed what it means to be an LGBTI+ young person in Ireland by offering a safe space, advice, and life-saving support for young people, and by reducing stigma, isolation and fear of rejection through changing hearts and minds about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Today, we are celebrating 15 years supporting and empowering LGBTI+ young people, their families, and communities. During this time, we have shaped government policy changing the lives of the LGBTI+ community, supported those most in need, and championed the rights and inclusion of LGBTI+ young people across the country.”