Mind Your Head – Happy Valley Pride

In addition to starting an evening class on Tuesday, last night I had an engagement to appear on a mental health panel discussion for Happy Valley Pride – talking about mental health with the LGBTQ+ community in mind particularly.

It was nice to connect with others in the community and think about the ways in which this peculiar year has impacted us.

There will no doubt have been many LGBTQ+ people who have found the restrictions of this year more challenging than others – I think especially of young people, building their confidence in their identity. Being stuck at home for longer periods of time, not able to socialise – perhaps in family settings which are less than supportive or even safe, is difficult, unsettling, even dangerous. We go through a stage of working out and asserting our identity in our teens/twenties – if we find ourselves having to suppress or hide how and who we feel we really are, that can have consequences.

So much “replacement” social activity, and also access to services is now online – there’s a big assumption there that it will be possible for people to access these things. That people will have the techology, the internet connection, the technical capability, and the privacy where needed – to be able to participate. That is not the case for everyone – and there are significant numbers of vulnerable people who are missing out, and have been so glad to be able to reconnect even in the limited ways that have been able to re-start in some places.

Many LGBTQ+ perhaps rely more heavily on their family of choice, their social circle, – people who you are not necessarily going to be living with – and so maybe feel the separation more keenly when we have to restrict our social connections.

The statistics around mental health and the LGBTQ+ community don’t make for pretty reading. Many of us have gone through years of difficult circumstances, discrimination and trauma – which leads to increased risk of developing mental health difficulties. It can also be a barrier to engaging with services – or finding services and mental health professionals who have the understanding to meet our needs.

However – there is strength and positivity in the LGBTQ+ community which if harnessed can paint a different picture – of a community which supports each other and helps to build a future of ever improving wellbeing, which overcomes isolation and boosts connection.

We touched on many topics, challenges of intersectionality – thinking about LGBTQ+ people of colour, (we did notice we were an all white panel – regrettable, while recognising Happy Valley represents an area with very low ethnic diversity – hopefully in future suitable people can be found to bring other perspectives into the conversation). We also considered the experience of growing up Trans, and how that has changed over the last few decades. Current arguments and pushback may be disconcerting for young people who feel their rights being challenged, but our hostess Kate had reassuring words for them – that things are much better than they were, and will keep getting better.

People shared their top tips for wellbeing – some highlights:
* Get moving. Find an activity that suits you. Dance in disco pants.
* Write your worries down, get them out of your head
* Practice 10 minutes of proper relaxation – no distractions – no screens.
* Reach out and ask for help if you need it. Talk to friends, family, see your GP.
* Schedule a time to worry – if you are being troubled by anxieties.
* Practice self compassion – give yourself a break, treat yourself with kindness.

A pleasure to be invited and reminded of the fabulous community out there. I look forward to when we can welcome back our Happy Valley Pride festival in all its rainbow glory.

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