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A Look at LGBTQ+ Mental Health in the Games Industry by Suneet Sharma


The Ukie UK Games Industry Census from 2020 recently shone a spotlight on many areas of mental health. The focus of this article will be the representation of LGBTQ+ mental health and highlighting some of the key resources that may help those who identify as, or wish to support someone who is, LGBTQ+.

The 2020 survey was the “most comprehensive and detailed assessment of diversity within the UK games industry workforce ever conducted” with over 3,200 games workers providing responses. It found that 21% respondents identified as LGBTQ+, a significantly higher proportion than the national average which sat at between 3-7%. As Safe In Our World states “the videogames industry creates incredible worlds where a huge number of vulnerable people find refuge.”

What is concerning is that the prevalence of depression and anxiety within the LGBTQ+ group was in some cases double the number of cases within the heterosexual community. This was particularly the case with those who identified as bisexual.

Unfortunately, these findings are not surprising. As the survey points out, higher rates of anxiety and depression among LGBTQ+ people are commonplace in society. Feelings of difference and being subject to harassment, persecution and having a lack of role models can all contribute to feelings of isolation. As a gay man who has been diagnosed with depression myself, I can say firsthand that at times I felt isolated and different from my peers, something which contributes to negative thought cycles and patterns. In some cases, people I know have been subject to homelessness as a result of their parents not accepting their LGBTQ+ status. The Albert Kennedy Trust helps young people who face these issues.

Turn your focus to the trans community and you find even more concerning statistics with the census finding that rates of anxiety and depression are almost triple the national average:

Again, these findings were consistent with long term research into long term mental health conditions within the trans community as compared to the cis community.

It is unacceptable that these figures are commonplace. They reflect the different struggles these minorities face in acceptance. However, this does not have to be the narrative in relation to LGBTQ+ people and mental health. Much can be done to help assimilate change and support those who are feel marginalised. Charities such as Mermaids provide excellent support to trans children and their parents with matters such as gender reassignment and mental health.

Out Making Games

OMG is a gaming industry wide LGBTQ+ group that supports its members in their path through the industry. OMG runs events, provides networking opportunities and establishes support for LGBTQ+ people throughout the industry. The Group also publishes guidance for games studios on increasing equality and diversity throughout recruitment and talent retention. Groups like OMG are key to help tackle the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ people within the industry and support wellbeing.

We spoke to Michael Othen from Out Making Games (OMG) who said:

“The games industry is becoming a far more diverse and inclusive space, but mental health issues are still disproportionately high. Our goal with Out Making Games is to build a network that supports its members and amplifies their voices, so that we can help make the industry more welcoming, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Resources for LGBTQ+ Mental Health

There are some amazing charities and support groups at the forefront of the difficulties between the intersection of mental health and LGBTQ+ status. These groups acknowledge and focus on the unique challenges faced by these groups, providing bespoke LGBTQ+ services. Here is a short, and by no means exhaustive, list of LGBTQ+ resources that may help you and those you care about in finding support for mental wellbeing. All the services below are free of charge.

A note for allies and parents

It maybe you are an ally or a parent who is concerned about another’s wellbeing. Whilst there is no one size fits all support its important you find a process and outlet that works for the concerned party. Be sensitive to their own journey in respect to both their sexuality and their mental health. Perhaps take steps to educate yourself by contacting one of these groups first so you can provide considered, meaningful support where appropriate. Always remember to respect the privacy of those involved.

 

RESOURCES:

Albert Kennedy Trust

The Albert Kennedy Trust supports LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are homeless or living in a hostile environment.

LGBT Foundation

The LGBT Foundation provides advice, support and information for LGBT people via their helpline, 0345 3 30 30 30.

London Friend

A great support group for LGBT mental health and wellbeing. They offer specific trans and intersex support.

MindOut

A LGBTQ+ dedicated mental health service. You can call them on 01273 234839 or contact them online for support.

TransUnite

TransUnite is a great resource which can help you find your nearest trans support group.

Trevor Project

A charity providing dedicated support to LGBTQ+ under 25’s.

Stonewall’s Information

Service Stonewall is a leading LGBTQ+ charity which provides a helpline for any LGBTQ+ person seeking support. You can contact their LGBT Switchboard between 10:00am – 10:00pm on 0300 330 0630.

 

Whilst these great organisations and the census itself is a great positive step in the right direction, these figures serve to highlight that the difficulties faced by the LGBTQ+ community are serious and there is always more that can be done. To this end, please follow the links provided if you wish to support these organisations or donate.


*Please note Suneet Sharma is not a mental health professional and this article is based upon opinion and is not a substitute for professional advice.

**A copy of the full Ukie Report can be found here.