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A Co Down man, who was bullied as a schoolboy, has become a campaigner with the NSPCC – the charity which helped him through a difficult time in his life.

Radio and TV personality Marcus Hunter-Neill, who is originally from Bangor but now lives in Belfast, is better known as Northern Ireland’s ‘first lady of drag’, Lady Portia Di’Monte.

With a wealth of experience across a range of fields, Marcus also brings his own personal insight into growing up within the LQBTQ+ community to his pioneering role with the NSPCC and its Childline service.

Marcus said: “I am so truly thrilled and delighted to be joining the NSPCC as a campaigner, seeing all the incredible work they do to help and protect the youth of today is wonderful.

Marcus Hunter-Neill
Marcus Hunter-Neill

“Many years ago I used Childline at a time when I was being bullied and I felt I had no one to talk to, I could pick up the phone and talk to someone who would listen. So I’m now so proud to be able pay back, in whatever way I can.”

Marcus, who is endorsing the NSPCC's Pride T Shirts added: “I love everything about these t-shirts on so many levels, not only the fact I love they are ethically-made, soft and comfortable, but the fact that they are saying its 100% OK to be who you are and love who you want.”

Pride events which normally see Childline volunteers and staff take to the streets in August for parades in Belfast and Foyle will be celebrated virtually this year instead due to the pandemic.

Marcus, 38, is joining the NSPCC as Childline figures revealed that lockdown has left some young people with sexuality and gender identity concerns feeling overwhelmed. Many have told the helpline that their mental health and emotional wellbeing has got worse.

Latest statistics from Childline have revealed that from January to the end of June, 2,300 counselling sessions were delivered to children and young people across the UK about sexuality and gender identity.

The average weekly number of counselling sessions held across the UK about sexuality and gender identity is 12% higher than before lockdown measures were introduced.

Mairead Monds, head of Childline Belfast, said: “I am over-joyed to have Marcus joining us. He will be such an asset to our work and I know he is already an inspiring figure to so many young LGBTQ+ people throughout Northern Ireland.

“During lockdown we’ve seen an increase in young people coming to us with concerns about their sexuality and gender identity, many are struggling with their mental and emotional health.

“Lockdown has made it harder for many young people to talk openly about their gender and sexual identity or be them true selves at home, especially if they fear a negative reaction from those they are isolating with.

“A Childline counsellor is sometimes the first person they have told about how they feel. It’s encouraging to see that young people feel able to talk to Childline, without fear of being judged or stigmatised. We want young people to know that they can come to Childline with any worries they may have, we are here to support all young people.”

For more information on volunteering with Childline’s bases at Belfast and Foyle email Heather.Cardosi@nspcc.org.ukor call 028 2044 1641.

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