by Fraser Jamieson
A recent report by the Scottish Association for Mental Health found that a person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) is four times more likely to commit suicide. With homosexuality declassified as a mental illness by the World Health Organisation as recently as 1992 it is hardly surprising that accessing mental health services is often daunting, or simply not an option for many LGBT people.
The SNP’s Education Secretary, Michael Russell, joined the Scottish Greens and Liberal Democrats today as he announced his party‟s full backing for NUS Scotland‟s innovative new LGBT campaign, There’s More to My Education.
The campaign is pushing for better representation of LGBT people in the Scottish Government’s anti-stigma and mental health policies, and wants university, college and community mental health services to be more friendly and accessible for LGBT students.
“Mental health issues can affect anyone at any time. As a society we must ensure that everyone has adequate access to the health services they require without fear or prejudice,” said Russell today. “I sincerely hope that this campaign educates people about the all too often hidden cases of mental health problems in Scotland and will help end the stigma and discrimination which is often faced by those affected.”
The campaign’s official website at theresmoretomyeducation.org was launched and has already been deemed a great success. It allows visitors to sign the campaign’s statement of support, as well as quickly and easily sending messages to local NHS Health Board Chief Executives, candidates standing for election, and University and College Principals.
“Students have enough worries as it is, and if they feel that they can’t get help from mental health and support services, the negative effect this will have on their studies is huge.” said Nathan Sparling, NUS Scotland LGBT Officer-elect. “It’s great to have the SNP on-board with our campaign and with their backing our campaign’s message will go much further and be much stronger.”
In the run-up to the Scottish Parliamentary elections on May 5th, Michael Russell has assured students that the SNP is standing by them: “The SNP is a social-democratic party which believes in equality for all, regardless of age, race, background or sexuality. Just like we have stood side-by-side with the National Union of Students in support of free education we are more than happy to stand by them in this pledge.”
Given that one in four LGBT people will suffer from mental health issues at some point in their lives, by working alongside educational institutions, the NHS, and the Scottish Government the campaign will be helping the estimated 500,000 people in Scotland that define themselves as LGBT to live happier and healthier lives.