Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. This topic is particularly salient in the wake of Covid-19 which has had a huge impact on older LGBT+ people. While there is no research to demonstrate that older LGBT+ people are more likely to catch the virus, we do know that health inequalities experienced by this community can put their mental health at increased risk. This is why we have put together some tips and resources for looking after your mental health whilst socially distancing. This year's Mental Health Awareness Week theme 'kindness' is also an opportunity to thank all of our volunteers and supporters whose acts of kindness have helped us support many of our members through this time.

Older LGBT+ people are more likely to experience loneliness

Older LGBT+ people are more likely to be single and live alone. They are much less likely to have support from children or extended family and many experience loneliness and social isolation.   

COVID-19 has now socially distanced us from those LGBT+ friends, social activities and community centres that we once relied on, increasing the risk of loneliness and social isolation.

There are increased levels of common mental health problems among older LGBT+ people

There are many different mental health problems, and some have similar symptoms. Older LGBT+ people are more likely to experience common mental health problems than the general population.

Stress is a common experience for most of us and has been linked to LGBT+ people and ageing. Sometimes stress can eventually lead to mental health problems such as anxiety.

Common mental health problems during this time include depression and anxiety as as a result of increased social isolation and worries around Covid-19.

ODL response to helping you look after your mental health

We know that our members have been hit hard by the lockdown. Many miss seeing their befriender or attending one of our groups. We have developed for new ways to help you stay connected, reduce loneliness and isolation, and ensure you stay mentally healthy.

With the help our volunteers, ODL has made hundreds of telephone calls to check on those members without internet access to make sure they have enough provisions and have someone to talk to in isolation.

We have launched Telefriending to reach members who are lonely and socially isolated, matching them up with a like-minded volunteer for a 30-minute phone call every week. It is an important way to stay connected with the LGBT+ community and find help in accessing vital services.

For our members with internet access, we've started to move our regular groups online. Our Bi the Way group is up and running via Zoom, inviting exciting guest speakers. We've also been supporting our members with dementia and their carers through our now virtual Rainbow Memory Café. As more of our groups go online, it will create new opportunities to connect

Actions to look after your mental health as an older LGBT+ person

If you are struggling with loneliness or your mental health then please contact ODL. There are also several ways to look after your mental health and that may help reduce feelings of loneliness.

NHS England and mental health organisations all offer information and support which are all accessible on-line. None of these are aimed specifically at older LGBT+ people so we have put together a list of the most useful. Here are some things that will help:

  • Structure your day and try to stick to a routine such getting up and going to bed at a similar time each day, make sure you build in some relaxation time
  • Stay connected with the people you care about, pick up the phone and give them a ring or write them a letter, acts of giving and kindness can help improve your mental well-being, remember to be kind to yourself
  • Be active, activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety, try doing some gentle stretching exercises
  • Take notice, stay in the moment, appreciate the world around you and enjoy nature e.g., try to distinguish different bird songs
  • Continue to learn, continued learning enhances self-esteem there are lots of educational programmes on the radio and TV, or start that book you have been meaning to read
  • Plan something every day to look forward to e.g. listening to music, making a phone call, watching a film, reading things that interest you, preparing a meal, eat healthily
    • Talk about your feelings and worries, if you do not know anyone to talk to there are lots of helplines e.g., Switchboard LGBT+ helpline 03003300630; Anxiety UK 03444 775774) and organisations offering one to one telephone support, and some provide telephone consultations.

Helpful Online resources