London based LGBTQ+ organisation, Switchboard, is raising awareness of the loneliness many LGBTQ+ people face at Christmas as they fear going home due to lack of acceptance from their family. It estimates tens of thousands of queer people spend the holiday alone rather than with family, and aims to provide support for those who are isolated this Christmas. Research by Direct Line has shown that as a result of the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, 38% of LGBTQ+ 16-35-year olds are more nervous about going home this year than in previous ones. One fifth of respondents also said their family responds negatively to discussing LGBTQ+ topics, and Switchboard has found the number of calls it receives increases during December. As a result of the number of LGBTQ+ people who find Christmas difficult, Direct Line has pledged to fund the lines over the festive period so those in need of support can call Switchboard for free.
Natasha Walker, Switchboard co-chair, said: “Tens of thousands of people are now in lockdown once more, in situations that are difficult or complicated due to negative attitudes towards sexuality and/or gender identity. Christmas and the winter holidays can already be a lonely and isolating time for many. In addition the pandemic has kept families, friends and communities apart for many months and at this time of year people are anxious to be home with their loved ones. It’s vital that our helplines stay open for those who need someone to talk to during the winter holiday and working with Direct Line has ensured we’re able to keep them open as call numbers rise.”
The organisation is also working with street artist, Pegasus, who created a 3D piece of art in London, titled ‘Lonely Human’ to highlight the helpline number to those in need. Pegasus said: “Loneliness has been a worry for everyone during the pandemic and helplines like switchboard make those in need feel like someone is there to listen. Visualising and understanding the problem of loneliness is hard. The Lonely Human was created to bring home the feeling that even in the country’s most populous city, it’s easy to feel alone.”
Switchboard’s helpline number is 0300 330 0630. More information about the organisation can be found online here