Research shows that the time between when a young person realises that they are LGBT (on average 12 years old) and when they ‘come out’ to others (on average 18) can be a period of great stress and mental health risk.
“Ireland as a country should take the opportunity of National Coming Out Day to show its support for all Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender young people who are coming out”, says Michael.
BeLonG To works to support LGBT young people through the coming out process and in 2013 it will work with over 3,500 young people through a network of youth groups across the country.
Young people fear that they will be rejected by their friends and families before coming out – a fear that can lead to intense anxiety and depression that can have lasting effect.
National Coming Out Day is an international awareness day that has been held on October 11th every year since 1988.
“BeLonG To celebrates its 10th birthday this year and over the past decade we have seen a huge increase in the numbers of young people who are coming out in their teenage years.
“They are coming out much younger and in far greater numbers. This is hugely positive but is not always easy. We should all stand up and show these young people that as a society we admire their bravery and support them for who they are.
“If all young people lived in a society where there was no stigma attached to being LGBT then this fear and anxiety would not exist and coming out would be the positive experience that it should be. Things are changing for the better – to a great degree because of the bravery of young people,” says Michael.
“Coming out has a positive transformative affect not only on the LGBT young person, but on their friends, schools and families.
“Most often when a young person comes out the community around them accepts them and in turns becomes more informed, open and caring of all young people.
“At a national level we can also see this happen. The Department of Education’s recent Action Plan on Bullying emphasises that schools which are open and welcoming to LGBT young people are good for all young people.
Similarly the Department of Children and Youth Affairs support for BeLonG To’s LGBT youth groups sends out a message that LGBT young people should be supported in the same way as all young people”
Belong To’s Stand Up! Support Your LGBT Friends campaign, which is supported and resources by the Department of Education, goes to all post-primary schools every March.