The theme for Belfast Pride 2024 is Love Your Mind

Mental health is a subject that affects every person in a multitude of ways. Many people reading this will have had experience dealing with mental health issues personally, with a partner, our children, a family member or a friend. And poor mental health is something which sadly affects members of the LGBTQIA+ community disproportionately.


Of course, being LGBTQIA+ doesn’t automatically mean that a person will have mental health issues, but it does mean that they are at higher risk of experiencing poor mental health. Being LGBTQIA+ doesn’t cause mental health problems, but being on the receiving end of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and other forms of discrimination can. Difficulties with acceptance by friends and family when coming out, lack of access to gender affirming healthcare, rejection, and isolation, all of which can have a significantly negative impact on a person’s mental health and sense of wellbeing. On the flip side of that statement, being out and proud can also have a very positive effect on one’s wellbeing, and we want to embrace that.


Unfortunately, mental health issues can have an even more profound effect on the younger members of our community. Research has revealed that more than 80% of LGBTQIA+ young people aged 11 to 18 in Northern Ireland have experienced suicidal thoughts and feelings. This is higher than the corresponding figures for England, Scotland or Wales. The same research showed that across the UK, LGBTQIA+ young people are around twice as likely as their straight cis counterparts to experience these feelings. This is heartbreaking and we need to do everything we can to make it change. Always remember, you are not alone.


So, what is our role as Belfast Pride? What can we actually do? Our message to every person in our community is that you are loved and that you matter. It really is OK not to be OK, and it is always good to ask for help. We want to promote positive mental health. We can do this by signposting all of the organisations doing great work in this area and raising awareness of how we can access their valuable services. We can do this by celebrating who we are and building on the tremendous sense of community that we have. We want to help each other to Love Our Minds, and in doing so, to love ourselves.