LGBTQ+ support group is helping young people to find their place in the world
A support group for the LGBTQ+ community is helping young people to find their place in the world and to face any challenges they have in their lives.
For one young person, dealing with the confusion between whether they are non-binary or trans, as well as their sexuality, resulted in them withdrawing from friendships and self-harming.
Having been referred to Outhouse East by their mother, they found a supportive group to attend each week – attending a Pride event and making new friends for the first time in several years.
Outhouse East provides support and guidance to the LGBTQ+ community in Essex, improving their mental health as well as their physical and psychological wellbeing.
During the pandemic, the in-person support the charity offers from its hubs in Colchester and Basildon was unavailable and so other ways of communicating with their audience had to be found.
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PFCC) contributed £8,940 to Outhouse East in the form of a crime and disorder reduction grant from the 2020-2021 Community Safety Development Fund to support young people virtually during the pandemic with a professional counsellor. The project support the PFCC, Roger Hirst’s, priority to protect vulnerable people and help organisations delivering community safety initiatives to adapt to the challenges of COVID.
With waiting lists for counselling support already stretched, the pandemic resulted in those within the LGBTQ+ community coping with their anxieties on their own.
Outhouse East retrained its counsellors to be able to offer counselling sessions online – with an unexpected positive being those who wanted to stay anonymous could do so.
CEO Jacquie Russell said: “We changed and adapted the way we offered our services to ensure young people could still access support. We had discussed the idea in the past, but felt it was important to offer our counselling face-to-face. But, we found some young people liked that they could keep their camera off and have that anonymity, but still access help when they were feeling low. It is definitely something we will continue to offer now.
“Covid-19 put us in a difficult position as we knew we had to continue to support the young people. It has been a really difficult time for people, having the time to think about how their lives were going and how they felt about themselves.
“We have been able to continue to give them the safe space they have needed to explore their thoughts and feelings.”
When restrictions allow, the charity offers weekly in-person groups for young people, a weekend support group for young people looking to transition, as well as a session to support parents of children who may be transitioning.
Jacquie said: “For us, it is a true honour when young people come to us and accept the support we can give to them. For them to feel free enough to be able to say how they feel and to ask for support is huge. Just having that initial conversation or putting their foot through the door is momentous.
“It all makes our service worthwhile. The results we are getting are excellent.
“We cannot thank the PFCC enough. Without the funding, we could not support the young people that we do.”
Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Roger Hirst said: “Outhouse East has done some great work with young people in the LGBTQ+ community. By adapting to offering counselling sessions remotely they have shown resilience. In Essex, we are lucky to have such a diverse community, and we must support them all in whatever challenges they may be facing.”