On World Suicide Prevention Day today, Gay Times Magazine have created ‘The Flag We Shouldn’t Be Proud Of’, which will be raised at Birmingham’s iconic landmark, Town Hall.

This ceremonial version of the iconic pride flag has 2 of the 6 stripes removed in order to represent the 2 in 6 LGBTQ young people we risk losing to suicide due to issues including bullying, discrimination, gender identity and mental health.

The statistics show that LGBTQ people are more susceptible to mental health issues than heterosexual people due to a number of factors, including oppression, discrimination and inequality.

As today marks World Suicide Prevention Day, the magazine has teamed up with Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander for a new campaign to encourage LGBTQ youth to discuss issues surrounding their mental health more openly.

In a call to action, Olly Alexander holds The Flag We Shouldn’t Be Proud Of – a reworked version of the iconic Pride flag with two of its six stripes missing.

The Flag We Shouldn’t Be Proud Of – a reworked version of the iconic Pride flag with two of its six stripes missingGay Times / THSH Birmingham
The Flag We Shouldn’t Be Proud Of – a reworked version of the iconic Pride flag with two of its six stripes missing

This powerful statement is made all the more poignant because the lost red and blue stripes traditionally symbolise ‘Life’ and ‘Harmony’. Those missing stripes represent the two in six LGBTQ youth at risk of taking their own lives due to issues surrounding shame, bullying, stigma, discrimination, dysphoria, anxiety and depression.

“There’s such a stigma around mental health that stops us from speaking out,” Olly told Gay Times. “In the workplace, in education, or even at home, it can feel difficult to express what you’re going through in the first place. Tackling that stigma is one part of it.

“I also think we have to have the actual services and provisions for LGBTQ people, because they are quite slim on the ground. The things that we can do to help that situation is to be on our local representatives so they are not defunding or shutting them down.”

Speaking about his advice for LGBTQ youth who are struggling with mental health issues, Olly added: “My advice is usually that you are not alone, and you don’t deserve to have to go through this by yourself. You deserve to have help and support if you need it.

“Getting to a place where you feel able to ask for help is probably one of the hardest battles in the first place – and that’s different for everybody – but I’d encourage people to reach out and to make use of support networks. Whether that’s friends, family, anyone close to them, or even if it’s a telephone service.

“There are lots of different options available if you are struggling, even though it can feel like there are none. You are not alone. There are ways you can get out of this, and you just want to feel empowered to make the choices to pursue that.”

Putting his full support behind this campaign, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “I’m proud that London is a symbol of diversity and progress, but we know too many young LGBTQ Londoners experience poor mental health and discrimination.

“We need to do much more and I’m delighted to back Gay Times in trying to raise awareness of LGBTQ youth suicide.

“The wellbeing of our young Londoners is vital if we are to build a healthy future for our capital, and I’m determined that all communities feel able to speak openly about their mental health and access the support they need.”

Comedian Joe Lycett, who performs at Symphony Hall this November, said: “I’m really excited about performing at Birmingham Symphony Hall, but even more so now knowing that they are supporting such an important cause. Suicide and mental health issues are massive problems in the LGBTQ+ community and I’m delighted THSH are helping to highlight this.”

Collabro’s Jamie Lambert, who will perform at Symphony Hall in April 2019, said: “The reason why this project is important is because there’s such a high level of suicide particularly in young people in the LGBT community and it’s really important that we step up and look after our own and make sure that we address that issue. Not just within the community but in the wider world as well. I’m really proud to support it.”

Richard Loftus, Director of Sales & Marketing for Town Hall Symphony Hall said: “This year marks the 40th anniversary of the original pride flag. ‘The Flag We Shouldn’t Be Proud Of’ will remind passersby how far we have come but also the work we have ahead of us to keep the LGBTQ community safe and well.”

John Osborne and Rickie Marsden, advertising creatives from The Gate London, initiated the project: “Despite this being an issue close to our hearts, we didn’t realise the scale of the problem. We felt like we had to help put a spotlight on it and start the conversation in a simple yet powerful way.”

Rainbow flags in front of Birmingham's iconic Rotunda during last year's Birmingham Pride parade in the cityI Am Birmingham
Rainbow flags in front of Birmingham’s iconic Rotunda during Birmingham Pride parade in the city

Gay Times has joined LGBTQ helpline Switchboard in urging anyone wanting to speak to a friendly ear to reach out and use their services. You are not alone.

“As we know, issues surrounding mental health affect LGBTQ people disproportionately, and World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity for us to reflect on the vast work that still needs to be done within the community,” said Gay Times editor William Connolly.

“We need to bring a heightened sense of urgency to our approach to mental health so that queer people everywhere can live their lives happily and freely, without fear or oppression.

“As the oldest LGBTQ helpline charity in the UK, Switchboard have long provided an essential lifeline to LGBTQ people up and down the country and we’re extremely proud to amplify their support network through this campaign.”

If you would like to contact Switchboard you can do so via the online portal at Switchboard.lgbt or their helpline on 0300 330 0630.

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