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Lecturers’ study reveals complex response by LGBTQ+ people and mental health struggles in the UK’s ‘gay capital’

The two-year project led by University of Brighton researchers Dr Zoë Boden-Stuart and Dr Nick McGlynn asks ‘Does living in Brighton make for LGBTQ+ happiness?’ and explores experiences of migration, social isolation, loneliness and mental health for LGBTQ+ people who had chosen to move to the city, and who had sought support from MindOut.

Across the UK, those in the LGBTQ+ community can often face discrimination and social exclusion, resulting in significantly poorer mental health. As a result, many migrate in search of a greater sense of safety, acceptance and community, with the city of Brighton & Hove – widely known as the UK’s ‘gay capital’ – being a popular choice

Collaborating with the LGBTQ+ mental health charity MindOut, and drawing on insights from psychology and geography, the University of Brighton research team heard from a range of people in the city’s LGBTQ+ communities. As well as describing their experiences, participants in the study research also created maps and drawings to provide visual illustrations of their experiences of migrating to and living in Brighton.

Dr Boden-Stuart, Principal Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science Centre for Arts and Wellbeing at University of Brighton, said: “This research was a fantastic collaboration between researchers in the Centre for Transforming Sexuality and Gender at the University of Brighton, and MindOut, a brilliant local charity providing LGBTQ+ mental health support.

“Our research shows how, despite Brighton being known as an LGBTQ city, queer people facing mental health challenges can still struggle with isolation and loneliness. Our participants told us that spaces like MindOut offer LGBTQ+ people ‘safe havens’ to talk about their mental health, and this can be crucial in helping everyone to feel at home in our city.

The study’s final report used a variety of headings to highlight the major factors behind why LGBTQ+ people chose to move to Brighton & Hove, and their experiences once they had arrived. One theme, ‘Queer Quests’, for example, explores how people who had felt lonely and isolated in their previous home community saw Brighton as a place to escape which offered support such as LGBTQ+-friendly health and well-being services

Participants in the research described the liberating effect of living in a city with a high concentration of LGBTQ+ people, and corresponding feelings of safety and connection. The city’s location by the South Downs National Park and the sea was another factor valued by LGBTQ people struggling with their mental health.

However, the report also highlights the challenges some LGBTQ+ people experiencing poor mental health faced after moving to Brighton & Hove, including the disappointment of continued loneliness and exclusion on the grounds of their mental health status, neurodiversity and other issues factors such as age, gender, class and financial resources

The study recognises that, while Brighton & Hove provided a great deal that was positive for LGBTQ+ incomers, it can sometimes feel impossible to escape from negative experiences and feelings. The University of Brighton study reveals how support from organisations such as MindOut is key to helping everyone within the LGBTQ+ community thrive in the city.

Dr Boden-Stuart on Twitter: @DrZoeBoden

Dr McGlynn on Twitter: @nikku_man

MindOut on Twitter: @MindOutLGBTQ


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