Twenty10 is a Sydney based organisation that has been helping LGBTQI youth aged from 12 to 25 for more than 40 years. It is also the NSW partner to QLIfe which is an all-ages support service.

At the best of times, the staff at Twenty10 have their hands full dealing with the myriad issues faced by queer young people today – and this is far from the best of times. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a raft of complex new problems for the general population, but added to already existing problems for many minority groups including the LGBTQI community.

“We are seeing lots of issues with Centrelink, and loss of income, isolation, depression and a general fear of COVID,” says Jain Moralee, Co-Executive Director of Twenty10. Her organisation has been inundated with cries for help by young queer people who are reporting struggles around school environment and being able to study in lockdown; uncertainty about ability to get vaccinated; and dealing with mental health.

“There is a marked exacerbation of anxiety with the increased police presence and feeling trapped in an unsupportive and sometimes abusive environment while in lockdown,” adds Moralee.

It doesn’t help that the internet, which is where most people now need to spend their time, is fraught with negative messages, misinformation, and trolls. Moralee advises young people to stay connected to trusted channels.

“We have a Community Calendar that goes out fortnightly through our social media channels that highlights not only great things happening online now, but also highlights where to get trusted information.”

Staying connected is a message that Moralee reinforces repeatedly. She says young people should be gentle with themselves, go out and get some COVID-safe fresh air and exercise, but definitely stay in touch. To that end, Twenty10 has developed a number of projects which should be ready to go by early September.

“We are about to launch a series of online support groups that will feature guest speakers, creative programming and discussion topics – with a focus on young trans and gender diverse folks, young culturally diverse folks and some for LGBTIQA+ people of all ages,” says Moralee.

There are, of course, queer young people whose outside world experiences are traumatic; who feel much more secure at home. Their anxiety heightens at the thought of lockdown ending. Moralee suggests they acknowledge these emotions, prioritise the reasons they need to leave the house, and always reach out for support.

“Know that you are not alone in this feeling,” she assures. “We know this is occurring for many people. Try not to feel like you have to rush anything.”

While Moralee believes the there is a reasonable degree of attention being drawn to mental health issues, she says access to support is unfortunately extremely limited and can be expensive. Specialist mental health is particularly under-serviced and Twenty10 is working hard to increase their capacity in this area.

“We are also continuing to deliver our Community Connector program, which is a LGBTIQA+ specific suicide intervention program – so that you would be better equipped to recognise, intervene and refer someone who is having thoughts of suicide.”

Twenty10 itself is not immune to the impact of the pandemic and lockdowns. Although it is considered an essential service, many of its activities have had to be paused or moved online, and that means fewer volunteers are needed.

“We do offer volunteers training and other ways of staying engaged and connected to our service during this time, but there is no denying that working from home or disconnecting from your volunteering can be a really challenging time,” says Moralee.

The services Twenty10 is still able to offer are many. Under COVID-19 guidelines, they are providing people with housing and in-person counselling and other support programs like food and essential hamper drops. Case management for existing clients, along with information and referral services, continue to be delivered via Telehealth. Their partner service, QLife still operates as normal via phone and webchat.

Twenty10 has also moved their training and capacity building programs online. They include: PRISM Inclusivity Training program and the Community Connector program – which offers supported online training around suicide intervention in LGBTIQA+ communities.

Probably most useful to young people right now would be Twenty10’s HangOUT platform, which is a Discord server based online support space.

“That program now has a wide range of offerings, including guest visits from other services, movie nights and also young person led activities and hang outs,” explains Moralee.

These are trying times, but Moralee’s over-arching message to young people is to stay positive, stay connected – Twenty10 is there to help you.

“You are not alone, we see you and we believe in you. There is support available. Please reach out to us if your struggling, feeling isolated, at risk of homelessness or just needing to connect with the LGBTIQA+ community.”

Email: [email protected]

Ph: (02)8594 9555 Monday to Friday (staffed from 1pm-3pm but someone will return your call outside of those hours.)

From 3pm onwards, every day, speak or instant message someone at QLife by calling 1800 184 527.

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