Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people living in rural areas like Mid Ulster are more likely to suffer from depression and keep their sexuality hidden.
This is just one of the conclusions of new research carried out by the Rainbow Project, which received more than 400 responses from across Northern Ireland.
It also revealed that LGBT people in rural areas are less likely to be ‘out’ in work and less likely to know someone else who is LGB&/T in their workplace.
And more than half of LGBT people who have always lived in a rural area have felt compelled to move to a more urban area.
Declan Meehan who is Youth Development Manager with Cara-Friend, which works with LGBT youth in Cookstown, said it was vital that funding for outreach projects is maintained in light of the findings.
“This underlines the importance of the work carried out by Cara-Friend, particularly that of our regional youth groups for LGBT people,” said Declan.
“These groups are an incredibly important resource in the communities which are lucky enough to have them, as they aim to combat social isolation and the greater disadvantages faced by the rural LGBT community.
“As the only regional LGBT youth service in Northern Ireland, it is critical that this government continues to fund Cara-Friend, as well as other organisations working towards tackling the inequalities faced by LGBT people, which this research illustrates.”
He added: “We welcome the funding of research by DARD, but urge the government to fund service-delivery for LGBT people on a Northern Ireland-wide basis, particularly youth services and mental health services.”
Agricultural and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill welcomed new research which her department contributed £5,000 towards.
“This is the first specific study of its kind and the report provides us with a great opportunity to examine how DARD, and other government departments, can address any issues of inequality and improve access to relevant services and support,” said the minister, who is also an assembly member for Mid Ulster.
“I am fully committed to equality and my officials will continue to work closely with the Rainbow Project in taking forward key issues relevant to LGB&/T people especially when it comes to improving their quality of life in rural areas.”
The report findings will be used to inform and develop policy areas in DARD and can be used by other government departments in the development of their policies.
Cookstown Cara-Friend LGBT group meets fortnightly on Thursdays in the Cookstown Youth Resource Centre from 6-8pm. The next meeting is on April 14th.