A public health expert has urged school nurses to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans young people, noting that they could be “pivotal” in helping them with issues like bullying or self harm.
Dr Justin Varney, national lead for adult health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said young people might turn to nurses when “working through their sexual orientation or gender identity”.
“This support can truly be life-saving for a young person who is contemplating suicide”
School nurses can act as an “excellent gateway” to help young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual to find support due to their “unique position of trust”, he said in a blog published this week.
Dr Varney, a former GP who has a special interest in LGBT health inequalities and domestic violence, highlighted the vulnerable position and risks that such young people often found themselves in.
He cited a survey by the charity Stonewall, carried out this year, that found 45% of LGB and 64% of trans pupils faced bullying at school for their sexual identity.
Almost half of pupils who are bullied for being LGBT said they never told anyone about it and 53% that there was not an adult at school they could talk to about sexual identity.
“Schools nurses… can be an excellent gateway to support LGBT young people”
In addition, the survey suggested 84% of trans young people have self-harmed and 45% have attempted suicide, while 61% and 22% of LGB young people have done the same, respectively.
Dr Varney also highlighted evidence showing that LGBT young people were more likely to smoke and take illegal drugs than the general community.
He stated that “inclusive and LGBT friendly care and support can be pivotal” for those who are experiencing bullying, harassment or contemplating self-harm or suicide.
“Schools nurses act as an important link between school, home and the local community and can be an excellent gateway to support LGBT young people,” he said.
School nurses in ‘unique position’ to support LGBT pupils
For example, he said this could be help with accessing support such as a local LGBT youth group or even just a safe confidential place to phone the national LGBT switchboard.
He also noted that Public Health England had worked with the Royal College of Nursing on two toolkits to help nurses be more confident in supporting LGBT young people and prevent suicide.
“As healthcare professionals, we all have a duty to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans young people to achieve their potential to have happy and healthy lives and be a safe space for them to turn to when they need help and support,” he said.
“Sometimes this support can truly be life-saving for a young person who is contemplating suicide,” he added.