Professionals & Services

GLEN works with professional bodies, mental health agencies and health services to develop resources and provide training so that service providers understand the needs of LGBT service users and know how to provide their service in a LGBT-friendly way.

What is the Issue?

A number of national policies have highlighted the need for mental health professionals and healthcare providers to be more inclusive of LGBT people in their practice and to consider the specific needs of LGBT people. The HSE in its 2009 report LGBT Health highlighted that LGBT people experience inequities in access to and within health services which can lead to reluctance to engage with mainstream health services. It also concluded that LGBT people are at a heightened mental health risk because of the stresses created by stigmatisation, marginalisation and discrimination.

Reach Out, the national suicide prevention strategy, identified LGBT people as one of a number of marginalised groups at risk of suicidal behaviour. It highlighted the need to conduct research on LGBT persons' mental health and to develop resources to improve mental health service delivery to LGBT people.

The National Office for Suicide Prevention funded the Supporting LGBT Lives study, which examined for the first time LGBT mental health risk and resilience in an Irish context. A key finding of this study, in which 1,110 LGBT people participated, was that LGBT people, and young people in particular, are at risk of suicidal behaviour related to difficulties before and after coming out to their family and in school. The Supporting LGBT Lives report made a number of recommendations for LGBT mental health promotion and suicide prevention in Ireland and these underpin the GLEN Mental Health Programme.

While there is greater visibility and inclusion of LGBT people in Irish society in recent years, many still feel they need to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity for fear of negative reactions from people including from service providers. Indeed, the Supporting LGBT Lives study examined LGBT people's experineces of using healthcare services in Ireland and found:

  • 76.9% of participants felt healthcare providers need to have more knowledge of and sensitivity to LGBT issues; 
  • Healthcare providers were only aware of respondents' LGBT identity in 44% of cases;
  • Only 40% felt respected as an LGBT person by healthcare providers;
  • 45% actively sought out LGBT-friendly healthcare professionals because of bad experiences that they had with providers in the past.

What Can Service Providers Do?

GLEN has worked with a wide range of professional bodies and agencies to develop LGBT resources for service providers. A selection of these are available below. In general there are 5 broad principles that services can adopt to ensure they are providing an appropriate and LGBT-friendly service. These are:

  1. Be informed on LGBT mental health issues. This will help you understand and identify the specific needs of LGBT service users. Reading the Supporting LGBT Lives report provides a very informative insight into the experience of growing up and living as an LGBT person in Ireland. The key findings of this study are available here.
  2. Be aware that all mental health services have LGBT service users. Given that approximately 8% of the population identify as LGBT, it follows that a similar percentage of mental health service users are LGBT. Don't make assumptions about service users' sexual orientation or gender identity. And remember services have LGBT staff also!
  3. Respond supportively when service users disclose they are LGBT. Where appropriate ask the person about their experience of coming out and if there are issues related to being LGBT that they would like to discuss or need help with. Consider linking the person in with an LGBT group or service. Click here for more info
  4. Take an LGBT-affirmative approach and challenge bias. An LGBT-affirmative approach means valuing LGBT identities and non-LGBT identities equally. While bias is something many service providers would not consider to be an issue in their practice, where it exists it needs to be challenged to protect service users' rights and service standards.
  5. Demonstrate that your practice is LGBT-friendly. Displaying an LGBT poster or including LGBT people's views or experiences in service literature can help create a friendly environment for LGBT service users.