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Depression affects almost half of LGBT Scots, survey finds

Mental health issues continue to be a big problem among Scotland's LGBT community.

Depression: Discrimination still rife, researchers found (file pic).
Depression: Discrimination still rife, researchers found (file pic). Newcast Online

Almost half LGBT people in Scotland have experienced depression in the last year, according to new research.

Equality charity Stonewall Scotland found 49% of LGBT people have experienced depression - including more than seven in ten trans people (72%).

The research, based on YouGov polling of more than 1250 LGBT people in Scotland, found nearly a quarter (24%) have witnessed discrimination or negative remarks against LGBT people by healthcare staff, while one in six (16%) have deliberately harmed themselves in the last year.

More than half of trans people (52%) said they had thought of taking their own life in the last year, while two in five (37%) have avoided seeking healthcare for fear of discrimination.

Three in five (60%) LGBT people reported experiencing anxiety in the last year, including nearly four in five (77%) trans people.

Colin Macfarlane, director of the charity, said: "Last year, our research found an 89% increase over a five-year period in the proportion of LGBT people who had experienced a hate crime.

"Sadly, this report highlights the impact that hostility and abuse have on mental health and wellbeing, with many lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in Scotland experiencing poor mental health this year.

"It's vital that LGBT people feel able to access quality healthcare when they need it, but this report shows they can expect to face unequal treatment and discrimination when accessing healthcare services."

'Many LGBT people - particularly those who are trans - continue to be 'outed' without their consent, treated with inappropriate curiosity and subjected to unequal treatment by healthcare staff'
Colin Macfarlane, Stonewll Scotland

Mr Macfarlane contined: "Many LGBT people - particularly those who are trans - continue to be 'outed' without their consent, treated with inappropriate curiosity and subjected to unequal treatment by healthcare staff.

"Consequently, LGBT people can be deterred from accessing NHS services, with many avoiding healthcare treatment for fear of discrimination."

The findings also indicate more than a quarter of LGBT people (27%) have encountered healthcare staff who have a lack of understanding about specific lesbian, gay and bi health needs.

For trans people, that figure rose to nearly three in five (59%).

Stonewall Scotland is now calling for all healthcare staff to receive training on those needs, as well as a zero-tolerance approach to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic discrimination.

Mr Macfarlane added: "Fortunately, we've seen strong commitments from NHS Scotland to ensure health services support LGBT people.

"The Scottish Government and NHS Scotland must continue to act to ensure all staff understand the mental and physical health needs of LGBT people and how to support them."

Mental health minister Clare Haughey said: "These findings are concerning, which is precisely why we working with LGBT equality organisations, including Stonewall Scotland, to eradicate discrimination and stigma, investing more than £1m to support the work of LGBT equality organisations across Scotland in 2018-19."

Case study

Strong: Austin Ferguson hopes his mum will one day understand.
Strong: Austin Ferguson hopes his mum will one day understand. STV

Austin Ferguson was made homeless when he was kicked out of his Glasgow home after coming out to his mother when he was a teenager.

The 22-year-old now lives in the Borders.

He told STV News: "As I grew up insecurities started setting in, but this was more of a hatred for my body.

"I watched a documentary with my mum where a trans man was interviewed and everything he said made sense and connected with me. So I began to make small changes and explore."

Mr Ferguson socially transitioned with his friends to begin with as he didn't want his parents to know.

'I had to make a decision to either be happy or keep her in my life - and that was the hardest decision I've ever had to make. I'm hoping she might one day understand'
Austin Ferguson

He added: "Later on I began to make more permanent changes; changing my name, my voice, the clothes I wore, shopping for my first pair of boxers - little things like that made me feel better.

"It was like a jigsaw puzzle and all the pieces finally fit."

Mr Ferguson initially came out as gay when he was 14-years-old, to which his mum threw him out of the house before allowing him back home.

When he came out as trans, he had to leave the household again.

He said: "All I wanted was my family's support.

"I had to make a decision to either be happy or keep her in my life - and that was the hardest decision I've ever had to make. I'm hoping she might one day understand.

"I lost everything; my home, my job and it was very difficult - my mental health took a massive drop to the point where I considered suicide. I previously attempted before.

"But I didn't want to feel like this, I picked myself up and told myself I was going to find somewhere to live, find a new job and I was going to continue on, no matter how hard that might be."

Mr Ferguson has had both positive and negative experiences with health care.

He struggled while waiting a year for an appointment, but once seen the process was simple and the support helpful.

'People don't have to understand it, they just have to accept. We just want to live like everyone else'
Austin Ferguson

However, he believes GPs should be specially trained to understand LGBT needs.

He said: "When I visited a GP I discussed my anxiety and they automatically linked that to me being trans, not the other factors in my life.

"Yes I am a trans man, but there are other aspects in my life that account for my anxiety. I wish they treated me like anyone else and not just put it down to my sexuality."

Mr Ferguson struggles to log off when being abused online.

He added: "I've been online and been told to kill myself simply for existing. I've been called all sorts of horrible names and experienced extreme harassment."

"People don't have to understand it, they just have to accept. We just want to live like everyone else."

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