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Digital Subscriptions > Attitude > Issue 272 > “Bullying is Abuse That can Create Long-Term Suffering It has No Place in Any Society”

“Bullying is Abuse That can Create Long-Term Suffering It has No Place in Any Society”

In an historic move, and after a discussion hosted by Attitude, Prince William calls for an end to the bullying that leads so many young LGBT+ people to suffer mental health problems - from low self-esteem to suicidal thoughts, sometimes taken to their tragic conclusion...
HRH The Duke of Cambridge PHOTOGRAPHED EXCLUSIVELY AT KENSINGTON PALACE FOR ATTITUDE BY Leigh Keily MAY 12t 2016

IN 2010, I WROTE IN ATTITUDE ABOUT MY STRUGGLE WITH LOW SELF-ESTEEM AND PATTERNS OF SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOUR.

We introduced a book to the UK called The Velvet Rage, by American therapist Alan Downs which explained that growing up bullied, isolated and invalidated meant that gay people had higher levels of addictions, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. This is not, of course, true of everyone. Most LGBT people do not struggle with issues as extreme as those laid out here and there are many, many straight people who suffer with mental health problems too. But it was telling that we had more letters about this feature than anything before or since.

This inspired me to begin work on a book, Straight Jacket: How to be Gay and Happy, which is published this month by Bantam Press and we continued to focus on this subject. Our contributing editor Paul Flynn and I wrote about it in The Observer. With the help of Stonewall, in Attitude, I wrote about the experience of parents of young people who had died as a result of homophobic bullying. I spoke about the issue at the Terrence Higgins Trust annual CHAPS (Community HIV and Aids Prevention Strategy) conference, and wrote to MPs and media organisations to try to persuade them to focus on the issue. The then leader of the opposition Ed Miliband accompanied Mena Houghton — the mother of a young man who had died after years of bullying — and I to Blatchington Mill School in Hove, one of the many doing phenomenal work with fantastic LGBT-supportive policies. I also wrote to His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge to express my concern about the situation and to ask for help.

In recent years, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry have begun campaigning on mental health issues. In September last year, Prince William took part in a training session, in Hammersmith, about dealing with homophobic bullying as part of an initiative with The Diana Award, in honour of his mother. This year the Duke and Duchess and Prince Harry launched their “Heads Together” campaign to break the stigma around mental wellbeing.

In early 2016, Kensington Palace invited us to bring some LGBT people to tell Prince William what happened to them and how it affected them. The Prince agreed to be photographed for the cover of Attitude to show his support.

So, on 12 May, we took eight LGBT+ people and Mena Houghton to Kensington Palace. Among the group were two black gay men, a Muslim gay man, a nonbinary person, a lesbian, a transgender woman and two white gay men. After our 45-minute discussion, we posed for a group picture and then the Duke posed on his own for a cover photograph.

Despite the subject matter, Prince William put us at ease and the group laughed a lot. He was genuinely engaged, seemed surprised and concerned to hear that things can still be difficult and told me several times to convey to our readers that he wished to help. He sounded, to me, like a new ally. After our meeting he sent us a statement of support.

It’s important to remember that though painful experiences are laid out here, most LGBT people do survive childhood and move forward happily. The situation for us has never been brighter and there is help and support for anyone who might need it. On the pages that follow this feature we celebrate some of the people that give us all reason to feel positive, whether they are helping other people or just making the world a happier place. They show that old wounds can and do heal. Sometimes we just have to reach out for help.

JOINING HRH PRINCE WILLIAM AND MATTHEW TODD (CENTRE), OUR ATTENDEES, LEFT TO RIGHT:

➻ CHARLES DONOVAN

Experienced severe homophobic bullying which left him terrified of being “found out.” After years of drug and alcohol abuse, he thankfully survived a suicide attempt

➻ MENA HOUGHTON

Schools antihomophobic bullying campaigner who sadly lost her son, Mark, to an unintentional drug overdose, aged 27, in 2010

➻ MATT MAY

The intense bullying he was exposed to at school had a severe impact on his mental health, and contributed to his battle with depression and anxiety, and to an eating disorder

➻ DAMILOLA ADEJONWO

A YouTuber who experienced bullying and homophobia at school here and in the US which severely damaged his selfesteem and self-image

➻ PARIS LEES

Journalist and trans activist who has experienced anxiety, depression and low selfesteem as a result of transphobia and bullying, and also served time in prison

READ MORE
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About Attitude

This month, HRH Duke of Cambridge Prince William meets Attitude magazine. In an historic world exclusive, the future King of England poses for the cover of a gay magazine and meets people from the LGBT+ community to discuss the issue of bullying and mental health. Also in this issue: 30 British LGBT people, places and things to be happy about in 2016; soul queen Beverley Knight; and the super-talented Bright Light Bright Light.
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