Since March, the world as we as know it has been turned upside down. For many LGBTI+ young people, the pandemic compounded existing mental health challenges, as they were isolated from their support networks, who love and accept them for who they are.
These fears and worries were reflected in the demand for BeLonG To’s frontline service, which experienced an 88% spike in the past 12 months.
Conan, a regular at BeLonG To, shares how he felt when the pandemic hit:
“My mental health took a nosedive at the start of the pandemic. Before all this happened, I was already at a three out of 10 and I feel like it went further down to a two or a one. I’d wake up every morning and say to myself ‘what else can go wrong at this point’. I asked myself ‘is this going to get worse and worse until I can’t take any more of it’? It felt like the world was falling on top of me.”
Conan reached out to BeLonG To’s Youth Workers, who are a constant, steady source of support for LGBTI+ young people. He received support through their online groups and crisis counselling service, in partnership with Pieta.
He told them:
“I don’t think I would have had that strength inside me was it not for BeLonG To. They are so helpful, non-judgmental and supportive of anything you want to do, it’s really an amazing place – I just love it.”
With your solidarity and support, they were able to rapidly respond, to meet the needs of LGBTI+ youth like Conan this year.
Their frontline team offered digital support through email, text, phone, and moved their Youth Groups online, and they supported LGBTI+ Youth Workers across Ireland, to provide safe spaces for LGBTI+ young people.
Despite the challenges they have faced in 2020, BeLonG To have had many memorable moments, and milestones that they are proud of.
They launched free online training for teachers and youth workers, created new resources for trans youth and their families, sent 500 self-care packs to LGBTI+ youth for Pride with Youth Work Ireland, hosted diversity training for their corporate friends, supported schools across the country to take part in Stand Up Awareness Week, researched LGBTI+ youth homelessness and life in lockdown, and won four awards for their campaigns and governance, most recently winning a Good Governance Award for their 2019 Annual Report.
These moments would not be possible without you. The incredible support of the community, from sharing resources and information, to donating and raising funds for BeLonG To, has a real lasting impact on the lives of the young people they work with.
For all of your support during 2020, BeLonG To would like to thank you from the entire team.