The Rainbow Project is encouraging members of the LGBT+ community to reach out and seek support during Pride Week.
The charity is particularly raising awareness of mental health and well-being as part of its partnership with the Covid Wellbeing NI project which provides a range of resources to help people manage their health and wellbeing during the pandemic.
The Rainbow Project is also calling on people to seek support if they have been the victim of a hate crime.
The charity has seen a 10% rise in the reporting of hate crimes against the LGBT+ community and is keen to highlight that it is here to support anyone who is suffering and in need of advice.
Director of The Rainbow Project, John O’Doherty said: “The lockdown period has raised anxiety and stress for many people including those within the LGBT+ community. Through our partnership with Covid Wellbeing NI, we are working to ease the emotional toll of Covid-19 and support our service users.
“We know that mental, physical, and sexual health are all intertwined, and therefore people need to take a holistic approach to their wellbeing. As lockdown measures ease and we start to open up society again, we are encouraging people to practice safe sex, and if concerns arise over sexual health, we offer the fastest testing facilities in Northern Ireland for syphilis and HIV. We understand the anxiety caused by sexual health concerns but by not opening up and getting tested, the effects on a person’s mental and physical health can be exacerbated.
“We have seen a worrying rise in hate and violence against our community in the past few months, which has had an impact on the wellbeing of our service users. No one should feel unsafe in their home. Through our hate crime advocacy service in partnership with the PSNI, victims can come forward to us and we will help them with reporting. This is hugely important as it helps in ending discriminatory hate crimes in Northern Ireland and will give victims the justice they deserve.
“This year’s Pride Week is very different from previous years, but it will not deter us from celebrating our fantastic community. We are using this time to reach out to service users and remind them we are here and open for any concerns they may have, be that mental health guidance, sexual health advice or a friendly face ready for a chat. The pandemic highlighted the human need for contact and relationships, and The Rainbow Project is willing and able to support the LGBT+ community as we move into the new world post-pandemic.”
The Covid Wellbeing NI is a partnership of 16 of Northern Ireland’s mental health charities, the Public Health Agency, and the Departments for Communities and Health. The group has created an online hub with tools for the public to help cope with the impact of Covid-19 on mental health and wellbeing. To find out more or for advice on maintaining good relationships visit: https://covidwellbeingni.info/