YOUNG people who are LGBT might appreciate help and support but they must NOT be treated as having mental health issues, states a University of Huddersfield lecturer who has embarked on an international research project that investigates the issue.
Dr Jo Woodiwiss – Senior Lecturer in Sociology – and her research associate Eleanor Formby, of Sheffield Hallam University, have been awarded funding by the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy to carry out a study of LGBT policy at two schools and youth work settings in the north of England and then compare them to two equivalents in Stockholm. They will collaborate with the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education, known as RFSU.
“Sweden generally has a reputation for being liberal in attitudes about sexuality and supportive of LGBT young people,” said Dr Woodiwiss, explaining the choice of overseas partner. She will visit Stockholm for the next phase of the research in early 2018. The two-year project – titled Beyond the Individual – concludes in 2019.
Dr Woodiwiss and Eleanor Formby spoke about it at an event titled supporting young LGBT people that was one of the University of Huddersfield contributions to the 2017 Festival of Social Sciences, organised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
The event, at Huddersfield’s Brian Jackson House, was well-attended, with the audience including a large number of practitioners who work with LGBT young people, said Dr Woodiwiss.
She said that an initial finding of her latest research project was the need to be careful about the kind of support that it is thought young LGBT people need.
They might want support, but a lot of that is just somewhere to go, to feel safe and to explore their identity.
“There is often an assumption that they need some kind of mental health support or counselling – so that there is an equation with LGBT and mental health problems – but the young people are very clear that this is not the case,” said Dr Woodiwiss.
Other contributors to the ESRC event – the latest in a succession organised by Dr Woodiwiss – included Dr Jen Slater, who is Reader in Disability Studies and Education at Sheffield Hallam and Professor Catherine Donovan, who leads the Centre of Applied Social Sciences at the University of Sunderland.