This week, 14th – 18th November, is Stand Up Awareness Week Against LGBT Bullying. This marks the seventh year since BeLonGTo, the national organisation for LGBT youth, started this campaign for LGBT safe and supportive schools.
Stand Up! LGBT Bullying Awareness Campaign
On behalf of the LGBT Helpline, I talked with Moninne Griffith, the Executive Director of BeLonGTo, to find out more about what the Stand Up campaign is, and how to support its important work.
What is Stand Up
The Stand Up campaign aims to raise awareness about the issues facing LGBTQ youth in various ways. One way is by offering training to youth workers and teachers. This training provides professionals with the language and tools to discuss LGBTQ issues, and helps them understand how to better support queer and non-binary students. The training addresses issues that disproportionately face LGBTQ young people, such as increased risk for self-harm, suicide, and severe mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
The Stand Up Awareness Week itself focuses on positivity and creating positive discussions around putting an end to anti-LGBT bullying. The onus then is not just on the LGBTQ students, but on all the staff, students and extended community to make the school an LGBT friendly and inclusive environment. Stand Up materials are free to schools, and content can also be found on the BeLonGTo website.
All Together Now
The average age that people begin the process of coming out is 12 years of age, and many individuals come out earlier than that. All Together Now is an extension of the Stand Up campaign to the primary school level. It consists of four lesson plans, available to download free of cost on the BeLonGTo website, that give students and teachers in 4th and 5th class the vocabulary and information to support LGBTQ children. The lesson plans use age appropriate texts to teach students about empathy and help to make children more aware of how other students might internalize anti-LGBT language, even if it is not said in a hostile way. Teachers have said that these lesson plans are a great way to explore the topics of bullying and empathy in general.
What difference has it made?
Stand Up is now in 25% of schools in Ireland, which includes all sorts of schools – multi-denominational, non-denominational, religious schools – and no type of school is more represented than the others. Bullying has a serious influence on young people, and when a person does not feel safe and supported in school, they are at much greater risk for skipping school or dropping out. The inclusivity that results from anti-bullying campaigns like Stand Up has been shown to have a hugely positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of students.
The next step for the Stand Up campaign will be to start rolling out the Safe and Supportive Schools project. This holistic, year-long programme examines policies and procedures in the schools and also works with boards of management, the whole school staff, parents, young people, and the whole community of people around the schools, such as youth workers, social workers, the Gardaí, healthcare providers, and mental health services.
The project has already been carried out in two schools in Donegal, and, a year later, the schools had changed for the better. The staff and students had gained more confidence in dealing with LGBTQ bullying, and “the culture in the schools had completely changed” Moninne explaine, “so it was a much more open and inclusive place for all students, not just LGBT young people. It got people thinking about discrimination and stigma in a whole new way and developed their skills for empathy and recognising when discrimination is happening across many grounds, not just LGBT.”
How can you support the Stand Up Campaign?
The Stand Up campaign has received financial support from the Department of Education and the Central Bank, but also relies on individual donations in order to ensure that the Stand Up materials are freely available for schools. It costs €21 to get a Stand Up pack into a school and start working towards creating a safe and supportive space for LGBTQ students. If you would like to donate to support this campaign, you can visit the donation page. Either way, you can spread the word about this important campaign and stand up against LGBT bullying by useing the hashtag #StandUp2016 along with pictures of you supporting your LGBTQ friends next week.