LGBT mental health: 'Being the butt of gay jokes made me ill'

By Michael Baggs and Christian Hewgill
Newsbeat Reporters

Image source, Bree Leahy

More than half of LGBT people in the UK have experienced depression in the past year, according to a LGBT charity.

Stonewall says 52% of the 5,000 lesbian, gay, bi and transgender people it surveyed said they'd struggled with it.

That's higher than average - mental health charity Mind says that, in the general population, 25% suffer from a mental health issue each year.

"The results are alarming but sadly they're not surprising," says NHS clinical psychologist Chris Wilson.

"They do reflect what we see in clinical practice."

'I was always called names'

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Bree says she was worried her love for playing football at school would make her a target

Bree, who's 19 and lives in London, says she's struggled with her mental health because of her experiences as a young gay teen.

"When I was at school, I was always the butt of the gay jokes and it made me feel ill," she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"I guess you'd say I'm your stereotypical lesbian. So at school I was always called names at every opportunity they had."

When she realised she was gay at 13, Bree says she was "terrified" her friends would find out because of their homophobia towards LGBT people.

"It's really depressing to realise that everyone around you thinks that you're disgusting and you can't actually do anything to change it."

Bree says she's now "comfortable" with herself and her sexuality, but even now says she suffers from anxiety when she is in public with her girlfriend.

"On the depression side of things, things are a lot better now, but you still do get that anxiety when you go out and you feel like you could be outed," she says.

'It was a tough place to be inside my head'

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Charlie, not pictured, struggled with alcohol addiction for 10 years

Charlie, not his real name, 29, says the mental health problems he experienced as a teen later led to alcohol problems.

He's only recently been able to deal with them.

"It was a tough place to be inside my head," the 29-year-old says.

"There was no education on mental health and no education on LGBT issues - or even the existence of LGBT people in a normal, functioning role in society."

Charlie says he began using alcohol in his late teens to feel more confident and "forget about all the stuff that was inside my head".

"From the age of eight to at least 16 or 17 I had to hide what I was feeling.

"As those emotions got harder to deal with, it was harder to hide them and that caused a lot of strain on my brain, which led me to develop anxiety and depression throughout my teenage years."

Charlie is now in rehabilitation for alcohol addiction, but says he's sad to think of what he's "missed out on" during his life due to his mental health issues.

He urges young LGBT people to speak to someone they trust if they are experiencing mental health issues.

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