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NHS HIGHLAND: We all need to have openness with LGBTQ+ people

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NHS Pride badge.
NHS Pride badge.

Pride Month happens every year and is all about acceptance, equality and raising awareness of the issues that affect LGBTQ+ people around the world.

For those working in health and social care, and all those involved in promoting wellbeing, Pride Month is not only about celebration, but an opportunity for us to refresh our understanding of the needs of our LGBTQ+ communities and renew our commitment to inclusivity and equality in everything we do.

Recent research tells us that LGBTQ+ people in Scotland continue to face major health inequalities in every measure of wellbeing and this impacts every aspect of their lives. High rates of loneliness and feeling isolated from friends, families and communities contributes to the higher incidence of mood disorder and attempted suicide in LGBTQ+ people.

Health and social care staff, and other public bodies, already undergo training to raise awareness of the issues affecting LGBTQ+ people. However, to close the gap in health and social inequalities, we all need to demonstrate an openness and willingness to hear from our LGBTQ+ communities about the issues that affect them individually and as a community.

Fear and stigma are all too often burdens that our LGBTQ+ communities experience.

We know that the majority of LGBTQ+ people – because of fear of prejudice – will hide their identity when accessing, or deciding not to access, our services. Allowing people to feel safe and secure is fundamental to breaking down these barriers. The promotion and visibility of a safe space that is open, tolerant and inclusive is one way that we can tackle the isolation of our LGBTQ+ communities.

The NHS Scotland Pride badge reflects our promise to be inclusive and create a safer and more equal NHS Scotland for patients, people who use our services and for our staff. This visible symbol of support is important and can make a big difference. It represents safety, respect and inclusivity. By wearing the badge, we are pledging our support as allies to the LGBTQ+ community and making it clear that there is no room for discrimination or harassment of any kind in the NHS.

The NHS Scotland Pride badge represents our commitment to the person as an individual, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity, and is our assurance to LGBTQ+ people that we are a listening, friendly and responsive ear. It is our way of saying that we want to connect with you, that you are safe to share who you are as a person, and that we want to and are here to promote your wellbeing.

That is why this year – as in years gone by – something we can all do is wear our NHS Scotland Rainbow badge with pride as an ally to LGBTQ+ progress. NHS Highland colleagues had the opportunity to sign the pledge in person and receive their Pride badge when some of our health improvement advisers visited Raigmore Hospital, New Craigs Hospital, Dunbar Hospital (Thurso) and Caithness General Hospital in June.

For anyone in our LGBTQ+ communities struggling with their mental wellbeing, information about local support can be found on the NHS Highland website or the Highland Mental Wellbeing website.

Barry Muirhead is an associate nurse director mental health and learning disability at NHS Highland.

Barry Muirhead.
Barry Muirhead.

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