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Researcher Q&A: How will social distancing affect trans and gender diverse young people?

We know COVID-19 is hitting mental health hard. But it’s also clear that a there are a number of vulnerable groups at particular risk, including groups already at increased risk of mental illness, such as trans and gender diverse young people.

Dr Beth Jones is a researcher at Nottingham Trent University who is looking into this issue right now. She’s particularly looking at how trans and gender diverse young people are affected by social distancing. We caught up with her to find out more about her important work and why this is a vital area for research -  find out more about the study, or sign up here

Tell us about your research, and why it is important to find out more about trans and gender diverse people's mental health?

The project we are conducting at the minute is about understanding the mental health impact that the pandemic and associated social distancing measures are having on the lives of young trans and gender diverse people. The World Health Organisation has already warned that the impact on mental health is going to be significant and long-lasting.

Trans and gender diverse people may be particularly affected due to already being at greater risk of poor mental health such as anxiety, depression and self-harm compared to young cis (non-trans) people. It is therefore important to understand the impact the current situation is having on the mental health of young trans and gender diverse people.

What are you hoping to achieve with this study?

This study will ask young trans and gender diverse people about their mental health and any changes to this while social distancing measures being relaxed within the UK. This will enable us to understand the impact that the situation is having on their mental health over time – helping to inform interventions to alleviate the long-term mental health consequences. It may also help support organisations plan the resources that they need to help young trans and gender diverse people.

Is it likely that young trans people are particularly vulnerable to the mental health implications of social distancing? If so, why?

This study will hopefully help unpack the answer to this question. However, based on that fact that we know young trans and gender diverse people tend to be more vulnerable to poor mental health compared to cis (non trans) people, we might anticipate this to be the case. For example, some young trans and gender diverse people may be isolating with families that are unaware or unsupportive of their gender identity. Some, may have lost vital support networks in their community.

Some of this support has moved online but not everyone can access this. We hope that the survey will help us further understand why this population may be vulnerable and how we can support young people and their families going forward.

Why is mental health research for trans and gender diverse people so important?

There is a dearth of mental health research with trans and gender diverse people. Yet the research that has been conducted has shown great inequalities in mental health compared to the general population. It is really important that further research is conducted with this population as the causes of mental health are often unique to this population (e.g., minority stress).

This also means that support services often don’t meet the need for trans and gender diverse people and therefore poor mental health can be further exasperated. Research in these areas is even more timely given the global mental health crisis that is anticipated by the World Health Organisation.

In the future, I hope that more research is conducted in this area so we can better understand and support the mental health of trans and gender diverse people.

Help spread the word of Dr Beth Jones' study, by sharing this article. For the young people willing to take part, you can sign up here.

Dr Beth Jones is Lecturer in Social and Health Psychology at Nottingham Trent University, She has a particular interest in how marginalised identities interact with health and well-being.

Last updated: 24 June 2020

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