Despite rapid social progress, adolescents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/trans, and queer (LGBTQ+ for brevity) often still experience distressing bullying and victimization. Mistreatment and socially hostile environments can negatively impact on their mental and physical health. A pressing public health challenge is addressing the adverse effects of the social violence LGBTQ+ adolescents experience on a day-to-day basis in the United Kingdom (UK).
Typically, adolescents cannot simply leave harmful social environments due to the practical constraints around their schooling and their economic dependence on their families. Many LGBTQ+ adolescents are geographically isolated away from LGBTQ+ charities or support groups clustered in large urban areas and most will not have parents who are LGBTQ+. Further adding to the challenges is that LGBTQ+ adolescents are thought to be ‘coming out’ earlier; as a result, they frequently have not yet had time to develop the more sophisticated social and emotional skills of LGBTQ+ people who come out as young adults. Hence, there is an urgent need for widely accessible and targeted help to assist these adolescents to develop the best possible skills to thrive.
Although LGBTQ+ adolescents are a ‘high risk’ population few research-informed interventions have been developed for them. Coping strategies that are evidence-based for the general population but are fine-tuned with LGBTQ+ adolescents in mind (e.g. with strategies that assist them to manage LGBTQ+ stigma and victimisation) offers considerable potential. This is especially so if they are delivered online in an engaging manner and focus on enhancing coping skills and building resilience.
There are three main objectives for this project:
The proposed project will fill an important gap in the research literature regarding the cognitive and behavioural coping strategies that can enhance resilience for LGBTQ+ youth. This project will therefore benefit researchers as well as public health leaders. We expect that the findings will both inform the existing debate about this subject and contribute to the development of future interventions (in addition to the online toolkit). Planned dissemination methods will include:
Co-investigators: Professor Louise Wallace (The Open University), Dr Rajvinder Samra (The Open University), Professor Katherine Brown (University of Hertfordshire), and Dr Katharine Rimes (King’s College London).
Academic advisors: Professor Elizabeth McDermott (Lancaster University), Dr Dan Baker (youth work expert), and the youth e-therapy research team (Professor Sally Merry, Associate Professor Terry Fleming, Dr. Karolina Stasiak, and Dr Matt Shepherd) in New Zealand.
Project co-ordinator: Alicia Nunez-Garcia (The Open University).
Organisational partners: Subject to relevant ethical approval we have obtained support from Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, the Centre for Policing Research and Learning (Open University), and Metro LGBTQ+ charity to assist with this project.
Stakeholder involvement: The project involves working with LGBTQ+ organisations, commissioners, and third sector service providers. We will have an advisory group to oversee the execution of the research. It will consist of the core team, LGBTQ+ adolescent advisors, our university-based academic advisors, and service providers.
This briefing summary describes independent research funded by the Medical Research Council/MRC (under its Public Health Intervention Development/PHIND Programme). The views expressed are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of the MRC.
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