New lessons have started in Cornish schools aimed at cutting the number of suicides among gay people.
Figures from the NHS in Cornwall reveal the county’s suicide rate is higher than average and lesbian and gay people are at more than twice the risk.
The lessons are led by Kate Sicolo from gay charity the Intercom Trust. She travels to schools raising awareness and challenging homophobia.
The work is part of an anti-bullying project funded by Cornwall Council.
Poverty and unemployment were blamed, as well as isolation and loneliness which Ms Sicolo said affected gay people.
“If you live in a very rural environment like Cornwall it’s difficult to do that.
“Perhaps the stigma of coming out in a very rural community and the fact that everybody who lives in your neighbourhood will then know is very challenging for some people and very difficult for people to cope with.”
She said: “We know there are a percentage of young people who are struggling with their own sexual orientation and it is really empowering to be able to say to them, ‘It is OK to talk about this with your peers.
“The hope is to normalise the issue for young people and raise awareness and discuss it.”
She said there were some children who were homophobic, but the majority had a positive attitude towards the lessons.
She said: “They come with a lot of stereotypes and it is interesting to challenge those preconceptions.
“I always encourage them to say what they want which means we get very homophobic remarks.
“But if they say that to me, what they are shouting in the playground is probably worse than that.”
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