Kent LGBT groups call for better mental health support using census data

Campaigners want census data to be used to target mental health resources to the LGBT+ community in Kent.

Optional questions on sexuality and gender identity were included in the England and Wales census in 2021.

The founder of Medway Pride said mental health services need a “better understanding” of LGBT+ issues.

The government said it was investing £2.3bn into mental health services, and Kent County Council and the NHS said they are committed to improvements.

Dexter Clift from Chatham, who performs as drag queen River Medway, said that when he was growing up he felt like “some sort of alien.”

He said: “It’s like I didn’t see myself as a normal person.”

“I was very fortunate to have a very good support system. I know there’s so many people that don’t.”

Mr Clift said: “You can’t argue with data. That’s sometimes what it takes for the people to realize, ‘oh, actually maybe there are lots of LGBTQ+ people in these areas.’

“There should be more support targeted at the LGBTQ+ community everywhere, especially in Kent. The mental health support in Kent is not fabulous.”

Edd Withers, founder and chief executive of Kent Pride, said there was a thriving grassroots LGBT+ community in the county, but claimed there had been a decline in support and services for the community over the last decade.

“Looking at the map, it’s obvious there are LGBTQ people living on every street, in the whole of Kent,” he said.

He said he wanted the statistics to “make some real change” and show politicians there is a community in Kent they should be better serving.

“I think one of the biggest areas that need resources now is mental health,” he said.

“It’s a budgeting issue. It’s a political decision to support people in the community who are marginalised. What’s next is up for the politicians to decide.”

A Kent County Council spokesperson said: “We raise awareness of mental health social care services across all our communities through our better mental health network.”

NHS Kent and Medway Chief Medical Officer Dr Kate Langford said: “We are committed to offering high quality mental health services for all and are aware of the need for mental health support to members of the LGBTQ+ community.”


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