Last night we celebrated a year of the Let’s Talk partnership, and it brought me back to eighteen months ago, when we were lobbying Rochdale Council to bring back its LGBT youth group. We went to an event run by the CCG (the local NHS) about the Social Innovation fund. This fund is unique in that it offers a large amount of funding to the voluntary sector from the main NHS funding pot.
For them it makes sense: sometimes the voluntary sector can reach people the NHS can’t and can run programmes that prevent or reduce health problems in a non-medical way.
We joined with five other grassroots organisations under the leadership of the Gaddum Centre, to be able to offer a joined up counselling, support, peer support and listening service, and we called it ‘Let’s Talk‘.
This has enabled us to establish the LGBT peer support group in Rochdale and satellite support out to Heywood.
LGBT young people in Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale are similar to many young LGBT people in our northern towns. They are frequently faced with social isolation, bullying, fear of family rejection and worries about their future. This leads to higher stress levels and can lead to depression, anxiety or self-harm.
But all of this is avoidable!
Because the issue is not the young person, it is wider society that has the problem, and the problem is ‘heterosexism’ (the assumption that everyone does or should identify as heterosexual).
What the youth group does is provide a safe space where people have their identity affirmed and celebrated, and where young people can support others. This moves young people from feeling low and stressed to feeling more positive, capable and supported. The group have also began to change the culture in their towns through events, awareness raising campaigns and workshops in schools – this is the long road to dismantling heterosexism.
We are very proud of the group and the workers who support them. Congratulations on your first successful year!