“I feel so good talking to people who are like me. Who understand,” Bradley* types on his keyboard from the security of his bedroom. His computer screen is buzzing with action: from links to TEDx Talks about what it means to be yourself, to LGBTQI+ friendly memes, to the kind advice from five Headspace youth advocates. This is Qheadspace: an anonymous, online chatroom designed for young people to receive support… about all things queer.
“And that’s why Qheadspace is necessary,” Charlie laughs with me, over a bowl of pho.
Charlie Cooper—youth mental health advocate, and the co-driver (alongside Sara Strachan) of QHeadspace—stresses that Qheadspace’s core message is simple: “it’s okay to ask for help.” But the fact is, for many of the LGBTQI+ community, it’s not okay. “More than 70% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people have been attacked, bullied or harassed, as reported by the Human Rights Commission,” Charlie states.
Taz Clay, an Indigenous trans youth advocate, struggled in silence with his transition. “The thought of seeking clinical support was quite daunting,” he told me—contending that his experiences would have been validated if Qheadspace was around in the early stages of his transition. Imagine logging on, and—amongst a sea of memes, GIFS, and the occasional one-liner—being exposed to people just like you, living flourishing lives, interacting with one another effortlessly. A bunch of queer-peers, if you will.
Qheadspace is essentially a chatroom portal—a queer, MSN Messenger for a new generation. While it currently goes live once a month, Charlie hopes this will improve with adequate support and resources in the near future. In a perfect world, Qheadspace would have the sort of funding that allows it to be active weekly, or perhaps even a few times a week. In an even more perfect world, Qheadspace wouldn’t need to exist—as young people wouldn’t be grappling with school-yard, domestic and internalised homophobia and transphobia.
There is nothing clinical or intimidating about Qheadspace’s format. It allows young people the ease to ‘tap in’ to the chatroom—wherever they are—to ask the grizzly questions they’ve never felt comfortable asking. They can chat to people like Charlie, who - having once felt like he was drowning in those same uncomfortable feelings – get it.
Taz describes a certain ‘stigma’ associated with seeking clinical help; the sort that works to scare off young people. “[This is just] queer support!” he says. “Whenever I have mentioned it to other young people—Qheadspace, that is—they’re just like, ‘Oh! Wow! That’s great. I’ll check it out’”.
For a lot of young people, Qheadspace provides not only mental support and strength, but a close-knit community discussing all things queer. For example, Micah from Minus18, started the dialogue: “what are everyone’s favourite queer characters?”. Peer support, solidarity and platforms with a youth focus, are both the easiest spaces to discuss sexuality, and the most inviting.
The lack of resources for young people—who are confused and looking for a ‘solution’ to their sexual identity woes, means that platforms such as Tinder, and even Grindr, are utilised in ways they weren’t designed to be utilised. It makes sense to discuss sexuality with a pixelated version of somebody on a dating app who, with confidence and poise, is comfortable being out. But Qheadspace instead provides that assistance and encouragement with expertise, openness, and confidentiality.
Charlie had Qheadspace on the tip of his tongue well over a year ago; especially after noticing that “an incredibly high proportion of young people accessing support at [Headspace] identify as LGBTQI+.” From his own personal experience, however, he didn’t just make sense of his sexual identity with the support of a clinician, or in psychologists’ offices. “Many queer young people simply want a safe space to have their experiences and struggles validated and understood by someone who has a similar lived experience,” he states.
When anonymous members, such as Jacqui*, are able to spell out pleas for help they likely had never uttered before to anybody else, such as “how do I know if I’m gay”—it is plainly obvious how necessary a platform like Qheadspace, is. Qheadspace is the engaging, queer mentor (with smileys, and rainbow-coloured memes) we all needed when grappling with our identities in the real world.
By disclosing his lived experiences in the Qheadspace chatroom—and not just the grizzly ones about discrimination and insecurity—Charlie is able to provide young people with hope and optimism. He discusses openly how well his boyfriend has been received by his family. He speaks fondly of the sort of communities he is welcomed and celebrated within. Charlie stands as the embodiment of someone who has overcome struggles intimately tied to his sexuality and mental health, and who is now enjoying a meaningful life.
You can find everything you need to know about the next group session, and access old group chat sessions here.