All posts by Camille Vincent

Mental Health Awareness Week

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Written by our ever amazing volunteer: Lenka Murova.

You might have noticed that conversations around mental health have been more prominent on social media recently. The annual #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek kicked off on Monday 14th of May this year, putting the emphasis on ‘stress’ and how we cope with it. People have been sharing their experiences of struggles and small victories with their mental health which is such an important part of making progress in helping to destigmatise mental health issues, to actually talking about them.

If you find yourself struggling, you might not even realise that it could be due to a mental health issue. I say this from personal experience as I’ve found myself having trouble being in crowds where I would feel like I was suffocating. I would lose motivation and would always find myself tired, not finding joy in the little things I used to. I thought that spontaneously bursting into tears and not being able to breathe seemingly without reason, was just me being overdramatic. So I ignored it, but it kept getting worse and worse and eventually, it felt like I was slowly suffocating.

Thankfully, as I am a child of the internet, I stumbled onto a blog that talked about mental health. I started reading about people’s experiences similar to mine and suddenly, I had a direction where to look for help. I went to see my first therapist when I was sixteen years old. I had no idea what I was doing, I was scared and thought I was making an embarrassing mistake. I am twenty three now and after years of not knowing what was wrong with me, I have words to describe what I can go through: anxiety and depression. Looking back, it should have been obvious but nobody around me has ever talked about this. The environment that I grew up in just made me feel useless and broken for not being able to just ‘get over it’.

So from my experience, raising awareness about mental health is nothing to scoff at. I simply didn’t know and had no idea that mental health was something that needed to be looked after. I thought that having a panic attack was normal for everyone (that or I was just weird). Being aware of your mental health is so important, because having to deal with these issues can be very isolating. After all – it’s just in your head, right? Talking about mental health issues, reading stories from others who struggle with it can all help at making people feel less alone.

Everyone has a unique experience with mental health and there is nothing wrong with asking for help when you think you need to. There are many resources out there that you can turn to. You can be sure of one thing, you are not alone, even if it often feels like it. Looking after yourself isn’t just about taking care of your physical health, it includes your mind as well.

Personally for me, it is important to be surrounded by people who care and understand, so I can build myself a support system. But I also understand that not everyone can have access to one which is why I love the opportunity to volunteer with LGBT Health and Wellbeing. I am so glad I can contribute in a small way to an organisation that focuses on supporting our community by providing a safe space where people can ask for help.

Just like anyone, I have good days and I have bad days, and I am learning to know how to ask for help when I need to. Well I’m trying, so I hope you give yourself the chance to try as well.


Useful resources:

  • At LGBT Health and Wellbeing, we:
    – run a helpline that is open every Tuesdays and Wednesdays, between 12 and 9pm: 0300 123 2523
    – offer one-to-one meetings for people to find out more about mental health supports available and what services might best meet their needs
    – offer counselling
    – a programme of social events promoting positive mental health and wellbeing
  • The Mental Health Foundation has a comprehensive list of different resources and places you can contact to seek help.
  • Campaign organisations like See Me Scotland and Scottish Association for Mental Health create great social media campaigns which people can take ownership of to raise awareness within their community.
  • If you are looking for an interesting conversation and artistic expression that aims to destigmatise mental health, check out Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival and their wide variety of events across Scotland.
  • There are also publications that work tirelessly to give voices and provide a platform for stories around mental health that often don’t feature in mainstream narratives:
    Marbles: an independent print magazine
    FearlessFemme: an online magazine for young femme and non-binary people

Service Evaluation Findings 2017

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

294 people who use LGBT Health took the time to tell us what they thought about our services


“I feel able to dream and envisage my life as a parent, and feel genuinely happy to know there is support and a community for us and our children. Growing up I didn’t have this real sense of potential and fulfilment as a queer woman”

“A sense of community and acceptance/validation, friendships with peers, information and help to progress with transition and improve my mental health, and invaluable support from staff without which I might not still be here”

“I’ve gained so much, my life was undergoing massive change when I first contacted the centre, and they helped me through every step. I was able to come out to my whole family, they helped me through my separation from my opposite sex partner and helped me find resources and activities which have connected me with the community. It’s been a massive help in my life”

We conducted our annual Service Evaluation again in late 2017 to find out more about who uses our services and what you think of them. The survey gave us lots of feedback which will be invaluable in further developing our services. Here is a summary of what you told us:

Key findings

“The staff I meet at events are full of genuine care, spirit and energy, and their friendliness is felt by everyone I see. It shows that your staff and volunteers are dedicated and as a community member I hope that we can keep them. Such a valuable resource.”

“You are incredibly important to many people on so many intricate and interconnected levels that all work together to benefit individuals, the LGBT+ community and society at large. You are essential and awesome”

LGBT Health is engaging with a really wide range of individuals of all ages who identify right across the LGBT spectrum – and beyond

  • 92% of you rated our staff as excellent or very good
  • 83% of you said that you found the quality of our services as excellent or very good
  • 82% of you rated your overall experience of the organisation as excellent or very good

What difference LGBT Health has made for you

  • 80% of you are more confident in seeking support (up from 75% in 2016)
  • 78% of you reported that you feel better about yourselves (up from 69%)
  • 75% of you feel more aware of services (up from 67%)
  • 74% of you report feeling less lonely (up from 69%)
  • 69 % of you feel more connected to your community as a result of using our services
  • 67% report that you have better mental and emotional health (up from 58%)

What you enjoy and value

“I’ve gained a wealth of community support, much more connection to the community, individual support access to resources.”

“A fantastic increase in the connection with the community around me. A huge increase in confidence about not only myself but around and with other people.”

  • Social interaction
  • Sense of community and community support
  • Welcoming and accepting environment
  • Wide range of information and support
  • Improved wellbeing and self- awareness

Your suggestions for improvements and our response

“Continue to provide the excellent service that you do. It was an absolute god send to me when I found out about the range of activities available to me, I am 55 and finally feel part of my community, knowing that you are their makes me feel at ease if I ever needed any help, I know if will be given with compassion and confidentiality. Thank you so much.”

“Continue reaching out to those less aware of you services.”

Access and inclusion

  • We will continue to communicate with you in a range of ways, ensuring that information about what we do is readily available
  • We will continue to look at accessibility of our services and events
  • We are committed to ensuring our services are inclusive and responsive to needs. The service evaluation allows us to continue to monitor our reach into the community

Publicity and promotion

  • In late 2014 we launched our new website and in 2016 we revamped our quarterly programme. In 2017 we reviewed our range of publicity tools and started work on our social media and communication strategy which will continue into 2018.

Range of delivery

  • We will use the feedback from this survey to develop our quarterly programme of events to ensure it remains varied for the whole community.

You also provided a wealth of suggestions for new or repeat activities, which we will certainly refer to as we plan our programme over the coming year.

What you can do for us 

Firstly do keep giving us your feedback, so we can ensure we deliver the services our communities need!  Also, the survey showed that many of you hear about us by word of mouth, which means that you can really help us to reach others by spreading the word.

Many thanks to all of you who responded

Your feedback is invaluable to us!

Annual Feedback Survey 2017

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Our 2017 annual survey is now live
and waiting for your feedback.

Each year, we ask everyone who accessed our services (no matter how long or often) to give us their comments on our programme of services, events and groups. This is your chance to let us know what we did well and what we could improve on, including opportunities to suggest future events or groups you’d like to see happen, how to improve our accessibility and many more.

It is also a time for you to reflect on the impact our services had on you. We love to hear about personal journeys and how far you have come. This helps us tailor our services to your needs the best we can. It also helps us collect evidence of needs and gaps to feedback to our funders so we can demonstrate that our services are vital to our local community.

The survey is a vital tool to the organisation and we would really appreciate if you could spare some of your time to complete it. And as a thank you, we want to give you the chance to enter our prize draw and maybe win a £40 voucher of your choice.

To complete the survey, visit the link:
www.bit.ly/LGBTsurvey2017

Deadline: Tuesday 19th December 2017

Thank you for your help.

Bi Visibility Day

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The 23rd of September is dedicated to Bisexual Visibility Day. There are lots of stereotypes and misconceptions associated with bisexuality and this day is meant to raise awareness and shed light on the real experiences of bisexual people.

Activists like Robyn Ochs are dedicated to dismantle the preconceived notions that surround bisexuality. In an interview, Ochs talks about the issue of bi-erasure, which ironically, many people do not view as a problem. She discusses the fact that bisexual people get accused of “passing” as straight and are therefore at times, ostracized by the LGBT community. Bi people are asked to “choose already” and to “pick a side” and because of these stereotypes their identity is not seen as valid.

Author of Purple Prose: Bisexuality in Britain, Kate Harrad discusses the importance of Bi Visibility Day and the reasons why stereotypes and stigma need to be talked about. When people claim that bisexuals are “greedy and promiscuous”, they base their assumptions on the fact that just because bisexual people experience attraction to more than one gender they must be “sleeping around with everyone”. These claims are very harmful and can cause many people to either stay in the closet or be ashamed to be associated with the label. Internalised bi-phobia can manifest due to all or any of these reasons, bisexual men are accused of using this label to hide that they are actually gay and women are blamed for wanting male attention.

These harmful stereotypes hinder any progress that LGBT+ activists try to make, they are not only damaging for bisexual people but to the community as a whole. How can we fight for equality and acceptance when we shun those within our own community? Thankfully, more and more people are vocal about the issues surrounding bisexuality and are sharing their experiences. Bi Visibility Day is important because we need the reminder that bisexuality is valid and indeed, exist. You should not be ashamed for who you want to be with and you don’t owe anyone any explanation.

If you’d like to know more about the Bi Visibility Day, you can visit the official page which gathers all the information you might need on the topic or you can look on the Bimonthy Bisexual Magazine to read more about bisexuality, activism and news in the community. If you’d like to share your thoughts or experiences, see that there is positivity and support out there, you can use the #BiVisibilityDay or #BiPride and find others who might have gone through similar things.

You can also join us at our LGBT+ Film Night and Discussion where we will mark Bi Visibility Day with the screening of ‘Margarita with a Straw’ featuring an open bisexual character. The film will feed into a guest panel discussion which will explore the visibility and representation of queer lives on screen – particularly depictions that involve multiple marginalised communities, like disabled or D/deaf bisexuals and/or queers of colour. Subtitles during the film and BSL during the discussion will be provided.

LGBT Summer Celebration

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

We ended the month of July with our annual LGBT Summer Celebration. Here at LGBT Health and Wellbeing we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed both by volunteering or attending and adding to the wonderful atmosphere.

I’d like to take this time to share my experience at the celebration to hopefully encourage anyone who is hesitant about attending social events. I know from personal experience that going to something where you might not know many people, or anyone at all, can be intimidating; and for the socially awkward of us, even scary. By sharing my experience at the event, I hope to give you an idea of what LGBT Health’s events are like and ease your worries a little.

I have been volunteering in the Edinburgh’s offices for a couple of months now and it has been an incredibly valuable and overall wonderful experience. The LGBT Summer Celebration was the first event that we organised that I had the chance to attend and help out at. As a volunteer, I arrived before the official opening to help with some of the setting up and as soon as I walked into the building I knew that it was going to be a great experience. I was welcomed by other volunteers who were there to help with the event, and I can genuinely say that everyone there was wonderful and so excited to be working at the event. The venue was lovely, decorated with all the possible rainbow things you can find, and we had some amazing live performances that made everyone smile and even gave a little shimmy. As the helper at the craft table, I had the chance to talk to different people and get (accidentally-on-purpose) covered in glitter (I have no regrets, but I’m still finding specks of shiny foil around my house). What stood out to me most and what I will remember, is how much everyone cared about the community. It was clear that we were there to make everyone feel accepted and to celebrate the warmth and strength of our community.

So if the thought of sticking out or not knowing anyone is holding you back from coming to any of our events, please don’t worry. I barely knew anyone coming there and I had the chance to meet some wonderful people who did not hesitate to start a conversation and include me in activities. Both my friends, who I brought along with me, kept commenting on how welcome and happy they felt at the event. Both, not knowing what to really expect before arriving, said that they have never been anywhere where they felt like they were not judged and they did not have to worry about how they were coming across. The atmosphere at the celebration made you feel like you could just be yourself, it was this wonderful little bubble of support and acceptance and I am so happy I got to experience it. Also, I got to see a puppy in a stroller, so that seriously made my day.

After attending the event, the name ‘LGBT Summer Celebration’ absolutely made sense to me. It was a gathering of people who carry out small acts of kindness in their everyday life and it is right to take a day to celebrate that. I hope that you will find the time to attend some of our events and get the chance to feel like you found a place where you can be yourself.

Lenka