15 votes

The Trevor Project releases the results of its inaugural National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health

3 comments

  1. [2]
    kfwyre
    Link
    Heartbreaking and devastating. For anyone who has the time, means, and desire to get involved to help change this, the best ways are at the local level. While society at large has improved...

    Heartbreaking and devastating.

    For anyone who has the time, means, and desire to get involved to help change this, the best ways are at the local level. While society at large has improved significantly, the truth is that the strain is still felt by kids at the individual level, even in progressive, supportive areas. The macro-level simply doesn't matter to a kid whose parents do not support them or who is getting bullied by kids in science class. No matter where you are, there are kids in your community, right now, who are uncomfortable as themselves in the environments they're in.

    Think back to your own insecurities in your formative years and how you viewed the world. Students don't have the big picture of how far we've come or what things look like when zoomed out. What they see is, instead, something like gym class two periods from now and how they're going to have to go into the locker room and how that makes them feel deeply uncomfortable. Their experiences are hyper-local, focused not on a particular city or even school, but individual classrooms and who sits next to them in math or across from them at lunch.

    While the internet and social media have opened the doors to support groups and positive peer relationships like never before, it also leaves the door wide open to continued harassment, exclusion, and shaming. Our kids can and do face cruelty like never before because it can occur around the clock, en masse, and at the blink of an eye. One of the most effective ways to counter all of this, the fallout from bullying and isolation, is for adults to develop caring, supporting, in-person relationship with kids. Another resource from The Trevor Project (PDF) lays out the importance of this:

    LGBTQ youth who feel they can talk about their problems to just one school staff member are 30% less likely to report making multiple suicide attempts than youth who do not have a safe adult to talk to [page 5, emphasis mine]

    Just one! That's all it takes!

    As such, the single best way that you can help, should you want to, is to see if your local schools have their own LGBTQ student organizations. These are often run as extra-curricular after-school programs. If one exists, see if you can get in touch with the faculty advisor and ask if they need any help. Monetary support is always welcome since these programs rarely get any substantial funding, though check with your contact first to make sure you follow appropriate protocols. Better than money, however, are time, presence, and support. If possible, attend the meetings for the group or any events they plan. If they're involved in an initiative (for example, hanging up signs for Pride Month), help in the best way you can--whether it's providing supplies, artistic talents, or community connections. Perhaps you could come in for a meeting and be a guest speaker or hold a Q&A session with the students. Adult chaperones are almost always needed for any events that take place outside of school hours, so see if they're doing anything on that front--from fun runs to LGBTQ proms to vigils.

    Most schools and teachers would be happy to have the help, and the students will benefit from having access to another supportive adult in their lives. That said, remember that rules are different everywhere and you want to make sure that everything is aboveboard. I would be remiss if I didn't warn you that you might have to get background checked or even fingerprinted to work with the students in certain contexts, and if you do not have a direct connection to the school, your presence might raise eyebrows or be met skeptically. If the culture or climate that you're in is particularly hostile to LGBTQ people you might face resistance from administrators, other teachers, or parents. If this is the case your involvement options might be limited, but know that those are the kids that absolutely need the most support. Your faculty advisor and any other involved adults in the community will be your best resources here and can help you navigate the complex landscape.

    Outside of schools, also look for community LGBTQ organizations, particularly those that work with youth. There is one in my area, and I am not exaggerating when I say that they save lives.

    I should qualify that most of my familiarity is with American schools at large, so I don't know how applicable my advice is to those in other countries, but regardless of the specifics, the idea that students need adult support is still valid and important. Furthermore, if you are wanting to get involved in an immediate sense, community options might be better for you right now given that many American schools are at or close to the end of their year and will be off for the summer. That said, there might be some summer camps you could support or volunteer for. If you're thinking you might want to get involved in a school, mark your calendar for September.

    As mentioned earlier, just one person can have a significant impact. You also do NOT have to identify as any form of LGBTQ to help! Students need to see support from straight allies as much as they do LGBTQ people. In some ways this can be more impactful because the students often expect support from LGBTQ adults or feel that it's given by default, while they often expect straight adults to not support them by default. They need to know that there are straight people out there who love and value them just as they are.

    I do not want to sound self-serving, but I can personally speak to the level of impact one person can have. As a teacher, I have helped students navigate the difficult waters of self-identity for over ten years now. I'm openly gay, (though I haven't been out for all of my career) and I have also run LGBTQ clubs like I've talked about here. Every year I have students who come out to me or look to me for support or guidance in helping them define and grapple with their identities and the difficulties they face. I am often the first person they choose to tell, before any family or friends. I can say with certainty that I have made a distinct, powerful, and positive difference in the lives of dozens of LGBTQ youth. I don't know for a fact that I have saved lives, but the statistics say that it's likely. I am not a boastful person, but my support for these students makes me feel fulfilled and proud. I know, unconditionally, that I have done immense good for them, and they for me.

    Helping them has helped me heal, as one of my motivators for going into the teaching field in the first place was to be the adult I never had. I didn't have any support for my entire K-12 experience, and I spent almost all of it miserable, alone, and hiding because I didn't want anyone to "find out" about me. There was no widespread gay representation in the media, no positive messaging about gay people, certainly no openly gay teachers nor supportive straight ones. There was only hate, snide comments, and the weight of toxic, homophobic masculinity. I felt utterly alone and broken--stuck in a world that didn't want me around.

    As such, it should come as no surprise that I'm also a suicide attempt survivor. It pains me to see the statistics here because it's a reminder that even though so much now is so much better than it was for me, there are still kids going through exactly what I went through. It pains me to know they are isolated and hurting. The closet stole my childhood from me. When I think back to being young I don't remember moments of joy, happiness, delight, or innocence. I remember fear. Constant, potent fear. If I had been successful at my suicide attempt, my life would have been nothing more than a short burst of prolonged misery, cut off abruptly at its lowest point. I am forever thankful that the method I chose was not fatal and that I get to live a life so much fuller and richer than I ever even knew was possible back then.

    Every kid deserves to know what it's like to have a full, rich life. Every kid deserves that chance. These kids matter, their happiness matters, their lives matter, and I cannot stress how much they need us.

    6 votes
    1. Tygrak
      Link Parent
      Wow, I wish there was any clubs, or anything LGBT really where I am from. Please keep doing what you do, it definitely makes the world a better place! I think I was kind of lucky growing up...

      Wow, I wish there was any clubs, or anything LGBT really where I am from. Please keep doing what you do, it definitely makes the world a better place!

      I think I was kind of lucky growing up because I didn't really even fully know I was gay. I had basically no friends at school already so I basically skipped all of this. Of course it would be nice if I realized this about myself earlier, if there was any support.

      1 vote
  2. Deimos
    Link
    The report itself is here (PDF): https://www.thetrevorproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/The-Trevor-Project-National-Survey-Results-2019.pdf There are lots of interesting results in it, I...

    The report itself is here (PDF): https://www.thetrevorproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/The-Trevor-Project-National-Survey-Results-2019.pdf

    There are lots of interesting results in it, I recommend reading the report directly instead of just the linked blog post (and various other ones I'm seeing around the internet that focus on specific details from it).

    3 votes