Anonymous care: LGBTQ+ young people’s digital mental health support

This paper considers the intersecting negotiations of mental health and gender/sexuality diversities for many young people, and how digital media is used for peer support and knowledge sharing. Participants from two qualitative studies (Scrolling Beyond Binaries, and a mental health help-seeking study undertaken at Twenty10) commonly referred to the value of digital peer support for mental health, often found through Tumblr and private Facebook groups. Because discrimination and discomfort are commonly experienced by LGBTQ+ people within healthcare settings, particularly among trans and non-binary young people, digital networks offer safer access to support and information. Participants valued experience-based knowledge and support offered by peers who have ‘been there’ - those who understand their situation in ways that most health practitioners cannot. Within participants’ digital help-seeking, expertise is situated in lived experience and expressions of solidarity. This expertise differs from, but is used in conjunction with, that of health professionals. Notably, mental health support was more commonly sourced from anonymous peers than one’s friends, demonstrating the digital literacies of many LGBTQ+ young people, an ethics of friendship care, and the ongoing need for peer support in order to negotiate formal health care.

Paul Byron (PhD) is a researcher at the University of Technology Sydney and Swinburne University’s Department of Media and Communication. His research focuses on digital media, young people, and peer-support practices, particularly among LGBTIQ+ young people. He is author of the forthcoming book, Digital Media, Friendship, and Cultures of Care (Routledge).

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