The importance of inclusion for the mental health of LGBTQIA+ youth
According to the Trevor Project, 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year.
A note from the expert: “LGBTQIA+ folx* and youth, understand this: You are beautifully made, exactly as you are today. You are valid and you are loved. So many of us in the world are eager to meet you, to be in your circle and in your corner.
June celebrates Pride Month, which elevates the lived experiences of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and beyond (LGBTQIA+), while honoring every additional and intersecting identity. Dr. Shelly Farnan, Vice President of Burrell Behavioral Health’s Be Well Initiatives, has made it her life’s work to make others feel understood, valued and well. For some, she recognizes, that feeling of acceptance hasn’t come as easily as they deserved.
Farnan, a licensed psychologist, invites all of us to take a moment to imagine living in a world where we are “othered,” misunderstood, and mistreated every day and in almost every space we arrive (at home, school, church, work, and more). She says many individuals can only imagine feeling as though their very existence and participation in activities is debated publicly and legislated against, largely by those uneducated in biology and human sexuality, over and over again.
All of that would be harmful, painful, confusing, and challenging, Farnan says, and it is the reality for folx of a marginalized group.
What happens as a result of how we, as a society, treat those who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community? Farnan explains, there are life-threatening negative impacts to the mental health and overall health and well-being of those individuals. While the well-being of the entire LGBTQIA+ community matters and is of the utmost importance, she says, LGBTQIA+ youth must be at the center of the conversation.
The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health confirms the worries of experts and advocates, while providing necessary information for us to be aware of and act on in every space we hold in our communities. According to Farnan, rates of suicidality among LGBTQIA+ youth have continued to rise in the past three years and the negative mental health impacts of society’s treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community has remained a significant concern ever since behavioral health experts began intentionally studying LGBTQIA+ mental health. In this year’s study, The Trevor Project found the following:
Statistics show health outcomes improve when LGBTQIA+ kids are affirmed, valued for who they are, have their names and pronouns respected, feel comfortable talking about their identity, and feel accepted by the people in their world. Farnan says, when they feel safe and protected, LGBTQIA+ youth are able to live, beautifully resilient, successful, healthy and happy – making positive impacts on the health and success of organizations, businesses, communities, and the world. The Trevor Project’s survey shows us the following:
It’s clear that wellness requires inclusion. Farnan says with some very basic and simple actions, LGBTQIA+ lives are significantly improved and saved. Then our communities and world benefit.
She says, together, we must stand for the “brain health” and overall well-being of the LGBTQIA+ community, especially for youth. We can each be a known, consistent, available, safe, and inclusive person for those around us. We can use our privilege for good and commit to ongoing education, learning and development. We can expand our protections, policies, procedures, and service to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity are welcomed and valued in all spaces. Farnan says it is imperative to take meaningful action in disrupting oppression and facilitating systemic change in every space, instead of offering excuses or free passes for any type of organization. In accordance with Burrell’s mantra surrounding inclusion, Farnan says, we must “welcome, serve and celebrate all people, all year long.” That is what supports overall wellness. That is what saves lives.
*Folx: used especially to explicitly signal the inclusion of groups commonly marginalized