While many of us are dealing with the challenges of isolation during this COVID-19 lockdown period, something that most have never experienced, spare a thought for many young people of diverse sex, sexuality and gender who struggle with isolation every day.
The disconnection from friends, colleagues and family is a substantial change we are all facing during lockdown and while we’re only a few weeks into this, the mental health impact is already being realised. There are months to go and people will struggle.
For DSG youth its a different kind of isolation – they may not be physically isolated, but the impact is quite similar.
Not having someone you can trust to help navigate the tricky stuff, to talk to about growing up different, or just to get a sense that things will turn out okay can have catastrophic consequences. Experiencing both forms of isolation right now could be too much for some young people.
Research released in June 2019 by the Trevor Project and Centre for Disease Control in the US showed that having just one accepting adult in their lives, whether it’s a parent, family member, or someone else entirely, can reduce the risk of a suicide attempt by 40 per cent.
That’s cutting the risk almost in half, just because of one supportive person.
StartOut Australia, a Health Promotion Charity, is focused on reducing the burden of poor mental health for people of diverse sex, sexuality, and gender (DSG), believing that with the right interventions, early enough, the negative impacts of poor mental health can be preventable.
StartOut has built an innovative mentoring platform to provide a safe, socially inclusive and welcoming space to engage and support the wellbeing of DSG people regardless of their location.
Although expecting to raise somewhere around $100,000 in 2020 to build on their development and recruiting more online role models, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a stop to many of their expected fundraising activities.
Managing Director at StartOut Brendan White said they took the decision well before the public health orders to cancel the three major fundraising events they had planned in the first half of this year.
“Staying home saves lives, so it made perfect sense not to proceed. As things progressed, we’d have had no choice but to cancel,” said White.
“The funds we planned to raise are as important now as ever before.
“People are struggling with isolation generally and this only compounds the potential for poor mental health in young DSG people.”
Every week, StartOut is receiving multiple new requests from young DSG people around Australia for a supportive role model to talk to.
An analysis of 50 recent mentor requests StartOut has received showed some striking results:
- While the average age of someone requesting a mentor was 24, the ages range from 13 to 46.
- 45% of people requesting to chat identify as something other than Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual.
- 27% of requests have been from people that identify as trans, non-binary, or gender-fluid.
Everyone is affected by the current crisis, some more so than others, but StartOut is asking for people to help in any way they can to help with their important work.
For those with the means, donations are critical right now to keep StartOut programs running. Donations are tax-deductible and can be made online here.
For those who have skills but more time at home than usual, StartOut needs a range of volunteers to assist with our programs. Writing skills, legal and policy skills and especially, those with software development and related experience are welcome! Get in touch here.
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