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Retail professionals called upon to support LGBT+ youth

A leading LGBT+ charity is enlisting the help of supermarket and shop assistants to support young people who identify as LGBT+ now the UK is fully reopened.

The call to action comes as enquiries to The Proud Trust (the UK’s largest LGBT+ youth charity) increased significantly during the pandemic, with 54% of young service users saying their mental health had deteriorated during each of the UK’s lockdowns.

The Proud Trust is asking those in the retail industry to help highlight the support available for LGBT+ young people and the adults who are support them, spread the word about its new LGBT+ digital support service Proud Connections , as well as learning more about how they themselves can become trusted adults.

Proud Connections is a digital support hub where visitors can live chat with trained youth workers and find out more about LGBT+ lives, including how as a trusted adult they can support a young LGBT+ person.

The charity has produced a range of posters that shop owners can print and display in their place of work to signal it is a safe space for LGBT+ identities. They can be downloaded here:

Ashley Hind, Help Services manager at The Proud Trust who oversees the new website and live chat function said:

“It’s more important than ever that adults feel confident discussing LGBT+ identities, to better support young people’s mental health.  However, we know from the adults in the lives of the young people who access The Proud Trust’s services that sometimes this can be challenging and they may have lots of questions about how best to support their young person.

“It can be tricky to know where to look for support, particularly for those who live in more isolated places or who aren’t confident discussing LGBT+ identities. For young people that are already struggling with their mental health, it’s crucial that the adults in their lives know where to go for information and guidance both for their young person and for themselves.

“Through the launch of Proud Connections, we’re really hoping that people from all walks of life will become more aware of the difficulties that some LGBT+ young people might be experiencing right now and share information on what to do if somebody does reach out.

“It’s the posters in shop windows or on staffroom notice boards that have allowed people to realise they’re not alone, and that there’s lots of information and support out there for them too.

“Displaying LGBT+ supportive posters has the added benefit of ensuring young people can find safe spaces on the high street too. Although attitudes are changing, we do still see a lot of instances of LGBT phobia on the high streets, in shopping precincts and also on public transport.  Having visual cues that signify your shop or workplace is an LGBT+ inclusive space can be very reassuring for those that are looking for help or support.

“We have lots of information and resources on our website not only for young people but also trusted adults, which could be anybody at all, from a teacher, parent, carer, or youth leader, to shop assistants, bus drivers, librarians and of course hairdressers and beauty therapists.

“From experience, we have found that, for some young people, it’s easier to share details about certain aspects of their lives with a person that’s not from their close inner circle.

“Sometimes it’s a way of assessing reactions and testing the water in a place, or with a person that doesn’t have a daily interaction in their life, but that is still a trusted connection.

“We are asking for people to be aware of the signs that somebody is trying to ask for support and to know where to go to get it when they do.”

About Proud Connections

Proud Connections  is the UK’s first digital service for LGBT+ young people and the adults who support them. The one-to-one web chat gives LGBT+ young people and the adults who support them the opportunity to talk to experienced youth workers for support and signposting to other services such as youth groups or mentoring projects if they could be beneficial. This new digital support service sits alongside a hub of information and resources on all aspects of LGBT+ lives.

Ashley Hind, Help Services manager at The Proud Trust continued:

“For some people who identify as LGBT+ the pandemic has been particularly tough, amplifying the issues they experience in their everyday lives and removing any support networks or safe space where they can truly be themselves.

“Going forward, we recognise that young people may need to be able to access our services remotely wherever possible, therefore we are rolling out this service nationwide so that the Proud Trust can help even more young people.”

The project is supported by BBC Children in Need’s £10 million funding programme, A Million & Me, which focuses on supporting children’s mental health.

Paddy Sloan, Project Director for A Million & Me, said: “We are delighted to be supporting The Proud Trust, who share our ambition to encourage children to share their feelings and supporting family, friends, carers and trusted adults to listen. A Million & Me is all about the importance of relationships and by providing access to expert information and giving children and adults the confidence to have open conversations, we aim to increase empathy and resilience and help prevent mental health problems developing. We look forward to working with The Proud Trust as they build their digital support service, providing information and advice to those who feel isolated and excluded.”


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