The need for increased mental health supports and recognition of the LGBTQ+ community in Clare has been identified through a recent survey conducted by the Clare Public Participation Network (PPN).
The survey, which was issued online in March, set out to gauge what would improve the lives of individuals within the community in Clare. Funding was offered by Clare PPN, Clare Women’s Network, Clare Local Development Company and Rape Crisis Midwest.
Recording 50 responses, the survey outlined that 70 per cent of respondents had received discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. A further 30 per cent felt that their gender identity or sexual orientation is not understood. One of the biggest factors highlighted, was the lack of mental health supports available for those within the LGBTQ+ community in Clare.
“What shocked me was that we had some respondents that said they were straight acting or hadn’t come out yet. For younger generations it may not be that difficult but for older generations it can be. In Ireland, gender equality is still an ongoing issue. People are afraid to come out. There is real need for a peer support group in Clare and that’s what we are aiming to provide,” stated Meabh Sexton, who works in partnership with Clare PPN and Clare Women’s Network.
A subsequent meeting was held by members of the short-term LGBTQ+ project in Clare, to discuss issues raised by the survey. An interest was registered in establishing a help line for people within the community as well as a support group that would meet on a monthly basis. Further training within existing mental health supports in Clare, specifically around sexual orientation was also flagged. Further education within the school system surrounding sexual health and gender identity is another key element that the project hopes to address going forward.
Meabh added that those outside the LGBTQ+ community can help by “showing visible support. One of the members from our meeting is living in direct provision. This person noted a complete lack of visibility for the LGBTQ+ community in Clare. They weren’t aware if Clare is welcoming or a safe space to come out. There are many people in Clare that are incredibly supportive, but visibly showing that support is important. It would definitely be a benefit to be a bit more vocal about it.”
It was suggested that this openness could be pioneered by business owners through putting up gay flags or posts on Facebook. Moving forward, LGBTQ+ Clare plan to invite more people to their meetings and put in place the solutions drawn up from the results of the survey. “Future events, post COVID, such as a pride parade are also being discussed,” Meabh concluded.