A year on from launching our LGBTQ+ webchat service, what have we learned?

Photo by Eduardo Pastor on Unsplash

Steph Keenan discusses how With You has evolved its offering to the LGBTQ+ community over the last 12 months, and built a more inclusive service.

Launching in 2017, With You’s Webchat offers a free confidential space for people to talk about their alcohol and drug use with a qualified professional. In 2020 we had over 21,000 people access our online support.

We know that webchat is an easier channel for people who have never accessed help before to reach out. People who are struggling with their alcohol or drug use have a plethora of reasons they wouldn’t want to access help, stigma and shame being the things we hear a lot.

Alcohol and Drug use among LGBTQ+ groups is higher than among their heterosexual counterparts, irrespective of gender or the different age distribution in the populations. However, this is not reflected in the people accessing our in-person services. In one of our services, only four people had identified as gay or bisexual since the beginning of the year out of 1490 registered. Evidence is limited as to why this is but it suggests there are specific barriers to accessing support.

There are limited available programmes able to address culturally specific LGBTQ+ issues within services. In a 2018 survey for the LGBTQ+ equality charity Stonewall, almost one in four patients (23 per cent) had witnessed negative remarks about LGBTQ+ people from healthcare staff while accessing services. When someone does access support there can be heteronormative side conversations that exclude LGBTQ+ people. The default questions if they are in a relationship, or who your next of kin forces the ‘am I safe to come out to this person’ thought process. Often they don’t see themselves reflected in the other people who access support. If there is a specialist service, it can be quite a distance to individuals in rural areas.

As part of a wider ongoing project to improve our offering to the LGBTQ+ community, we looked at how webchat could be more inclusive. Webchat gives a confidential space where a person can disclose as much or as little as they want to a trained professional. The team offers service without borders or the barriers sometimes found in our commissioned support.

First of all we noticed a gap in our knowledge and recruited specialists in chems. Not only did this help to upskill the team but we tried offering specialist sessions for online one-to-ones with Ben, a frontline recovery worker and member of the community. This enabled people to access specialist support from wherever they were comfortable.

Read the full blog post here.

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We are proud to work in partnership with many of the leading charities and treatment providers in the sector.

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