Category Archives: Media

Pride (Volunteer’s Week)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

In honour of Volunteer’s Week which takes place every year to celebrate the fantastic contribution millions volunteers make across the UK, we want to take the time to celebrate our fabulous volunteer Rachel who has been helping us around the office with maintaining our databases and providing invaluable support to the community on our helpline. Rachel has a lot to be proud of and we love that she embraces and recognises her own achievements, for self-pride is an incredible force that pushes you forward. Read more about Rachel’s journey below, in her own words.

With Edinburgh Pride rapidly approaching I thought it might be a good idea to write a little piece about what makes me proud, not just for one day when we all march together and wave flags, but over the last year?

So, I am proud of my own achievements first and foremost. I have spent the last years living entirely as female apart from 2 days because the plane tickets were booked in my male name. Otherwise I have lived, ate, slept and loved being an out MtF. I have done some pretty amazing but also scary things in that year:

  1. A holiday to the Philippines, a little nerve wracking to be sure.
  2. A trip around the western islands of Scotland, strangely more nerve wracking than the Philippines.
  3. A holiday to Indonesia for two weeks, a level of scary that there are no words adequate to describe.

I am proud of the people I have made friends with who have helped me through the bad days where I have struggled with my depression or anxiety and helped me carry on.

I am proud of myself for reaching out to other people and helping them to come out or to overcome the difficulties they have faced in their everyday lives.

I am proud of my girlfriend for overcoming her personal misgivings and coming to realise that love between two people is love regardless of what body parts they have.

I am proud of all the people I have meet over the last year for the level of acceptance I have received, more than I had ever expected or even dared hope for. I think I have been asked the time, directions, where I got items of clothes from more times in the last years than the previous 45 years living as a male combined. It’s made me realise that although there are still some horrible people out there, 99.99% of the population just want to live their own lives and are happy for you to do the same.

I am proud of the country I live in that, even already being a good place to be LGBTQ+, has made advances to become more open and equal for everyone.

So as we approach the pride season, please reflect on your own year and be proud of yourself.

With love and pride,
Rachel  XXX

Mental Health Awareness Week

Saturday, June 23, 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

Bi Visibility Day

Saturday, June 23, 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.

This month, we celebrate

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Here at LGBT Health and Wellbeing, we are just coming off of Pride Edinburgh festivities. As our community gather together each year to remember those whose sacrifices contributed to the fight for equality, we are always in awe at the resilience and pride demonstrated. Rainbows, chants and marches can fill people with so much hope and witnessing it at Pride always gives our team more motivation to carry our work. We were very glad to be a part of Pride Edinburgh once again. We loved spending time with the community, all in joyfulness and fabulousness. We want to thank everyone who engaged with us and took part in some of our activities. We are grateful for all the support you show to our organisation, and most importantly, the support you show to each other.

It is easy to get swept up in the festivities, rainbow flags and glitter but we also want to remember that we marched in solidarity of those who couldn’t and still can’t march. Because Pride also helps us remind ourselves that we are not alone and that we are all striving for something good. This is why we want to take the energy and spirit from Pride and carry it forward, because we should take every opportunity to uplift those who face difficulties in their lives.

The current political and social climate makes it easy to feel lost and discouraged and so we want to dedicate July to celebrate all the good things and people who work hard every day to make the world a more tolerant and understanding place. Sometimes, it might seem that things are not getting any better, especially with news like the discovery of Anti-LGBT violence in Chechnya – the outlook might seem bleak. But there are organisations dedicated to working towards saving those persecuted: the Human Rights Watch has a dedicated website to the issue and the Amnesty International UK page where you can sign a petition urging the authorities to take action and ensure peoples’ safety. Remember that your voice matters, even at times when you feel that’s not the case. It is people who inspire people, and that’s how progress is still happening. Last Friday morning, after 15 years since legalising civil unions for same-sex partnerships, Germany finally voted to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Change takes a while but when it happens, all the hard work is worth it.

This is why we want July at LGBT Health and Wellbeing to be about celebration – a reminder to be proud and celebrate our differences continuously whilst striving for change. As much as Pride celebrates all the milestones and victories of our community, it’s also a time to celebrate yourself. As an organisation, we work hard to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and we believe that celebrating diversity can help us in doing so. Our programme of social events aims to encourage intersectionality through various events, bringing together and introducing people from a mix of backgrounds and experiences. This month, we will celebrate body positivity with an LGBTQ Yoga session and a spoken word evening with Katherine McMahon at our Women’s Wellbeing Events. We will also be looking at historical trans figures at our monthly T time meetup and looking at the experiences of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees during a community discussion. And finally, our last festivity of the month, our annual family-friendly
LGBT Summer Celebration where we’ll be celebrating all things queer.

LGBT Inclusive Mental Health Services | New Guide

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A drive to improve mental health services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people has begun today with the launch of a new guide by the Mental Welfare Commission.

The guide, which was co-produced with LGBT Health and Wellbeing, has been launched in a bid to increase awareness of LGBT rights amongst mental health professionals, and help health and social care services to deliver more person-centred care and support.

It aims to address inequalities in the support and treatment of LGBT people across Scotland’s mental health services, and features a number of recommendations for making services more accessible and LGBT-friendly. Copies will be sent out to all psychiatric wards in Scotland, as well as primary care and community services.

Dr Gary Morrison, Executive Director (Medical) at the Mental Welfare Commission said:

 “We are excited to announce the publication of our new guide on LGBT inclusion in mental health services.

“LGBT people experience higher rates of mental disorder and are much more likely to think about suicide or self-harming. They are also more likely to have negative experiences when accessing mental health services.

“We hope that by producing this guidance we can help eliminate discrimination against LGBT people in mental health services, and equip health and social care professionals with the information they need to provide the best possible care and support.”

Maruska Greenwood, Chief Executive at LGBT Health and Wellbeing, said:

“We were delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with the Commission on this guide. Through our work with LGBT people we know the tremendous positive difference it makes to individuals to be able to engage with service providers who do not make assumptions, judge or stigmatise them because of their minority sexual orientation or gender identity. We hope this guide will reach new audiences with the important message that acceptance and inclusion are key to supporting LGBT people experiencing poor mental health.”

Catherine Somerville, Campaigns, Policy and Research Manager at Stonewall Scotland, also supported the launch of the guide:

“It is really positive to see the Mental Welfare Commission putting in place this much needed guidance to support mental health professionals to better meet the needs of their LGBT patients. Our research suggests that half of mental health workers, including counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists do not recognise the relevance of sexual orientation to someone’s health needs (Unhealthy Attitudes, 2015). This guidance is an important step forward to make sure that LGBT people can access mental health services with confidence.”

The document is available here.

Note to Editors

The rate of suicidal ideation and self-harm for LGBT people is 20-25%, compared with 2.4% for the general population.

Jamie Wilson  0131 313 8782