‘You have the right to exist’: Manchester LGBT youth group secure £100k grant

A Manchester-based LGBTQ youth project has secured £100,000 in funding to challenge the isolation experienced by young people.

The project, fronted by 42nd Street and Lets Go Global, aims to engage LGBTQ youth with each other using a social media platform to improve their mental wellbeing.

Lets Go Global are a group that have always supported young people and found that this issue of isolation and wanting to connect with others is a recurring feeling amongst LGBTQ youth.

Karen Shannon, Director of Lets Go Global, said through their talks with Manchester’s young people about what their interests are they realised that ‘something needed to happen’.

The meetings displayed their need to belong to a community because many LGBTQ youths are scared of being pushed out after coming out to their families.

“This project will create a safe online space where young LGBTQ people can share their experiences, gain peer support and use creative methods to explore their identity.

“They are fearful of being outed of their communities and particularly in the traveller community it is hard to come out.”

Amelia Lee, Strategic Director, LGBT Youth North West said: “We must all do things in our daily lives to support LGBT people, such as mention and usualise words like ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans’.

“By making the words and the identities part of everyday life, a clear message is sent out – you exist and you have right to exist.

“The stress of coming out or not being able to come out, and the risks of non-acceptance, especially in strict families or faith communities, often leads to internalising this which manifests itself as stress and mental distress.”

Lets Go Global, in partnership with 42nd Street, received the grant from the BBC’s Children in Need to help young people through difficult times by exploring their creativity.

The project, which is in its beginning stages, wants young people to have input and will use their ideas to build the social media platform, which will be both web and app based.

As well as feeling shut out of their home life LGBTQ youths face problems at school.

The LGBT foundation in Manchester found that 58% did not feel that their school was a safe and welcoming place for lesbian, gay or bisexual pupils.

Ms Shannon said: “We want to bring offline face-to-face issues and transport it online in a proactive way.

“The project will be sensitive to those who are afraid, we have to offer anonymity.

“They don’t have to disclose their identity but it has to be a thought through process.”

Ms Lee said: “Young people already seek advice via the Internet but this can be unreliable, so having a reliable, trusted source where they can remain anonymous is key, especially for trans young people.”

42nd Street’s involvement in the project highlights the on-going complex issue of LGBTQ people and their mental health wellbeing.

Simone Spray, CEO of 42nd Street said: “Having listened to the experiences of LGBTQ youngsters, it’s clear they can often feel isolated as they work through their emotions and feelings, which can lead to a negative impact on their emotional health and wellbeing.

“Mental health issues for young people are increasing, with our demand for our services doubling over the last two years.

“The project will support some of our most vulnerable young people at a critical time in their lives.”

The grant will fund a Mental Health Practitioner and a Digital Engagement Coordinator, sessional artists, computer equipment, web making, trips, and volunteer expenses.

There will also be weekly group work sessions at 42nd Street’s Manchester base ‘The Space’ on Great Ancoats Street.

Image courtesy of Joseph Goebel, via Flickr, with thanks.

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