By Aneesha Perkins, LPC
With June being Pride month, it’s essential to highlight the challenges our LGBTQ+ youth experience regularly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), LGBTQ+ and youth experience mental health issues, discrimination, stigma, rejection, and violence at unarguably high rates. With that being said, there are different ways that you can connect with LGBTQ+ youth to stand as a source of love and care.
Check out four ways to show your love:
1. Deepen Your Relationship – Meaningful relationships help combat feelings and emotions associated with rejection. LGBTQ+ youth may experience various forms of rejection from their family, friends, peers, and society. Therefore, if someone from this community could benefit from your presence, show up. Showing up could look like being more intentional in communicating/texting regularly, running errands together, or playing games that require you both to learn more about each other. Find ways to dig beyond the surface in your relationship, get to know your youth more deeply, and become a safe space for them.
2. Bond Through Activities – Feelings of rejection can easily lead to isolation. Isolation and lack of social connection is one of the symptoms of depression, which can lead LGBTQ+ youth to be highly susceptible to mental health issues. Bonding activities can help combat isolation by providing meaningful social interactions. So, ask your youth about some activities they enjoy and set up regular dates every month with the goal of bonding in mind. Activities could include playing video games, cooking their favorite meal together, going to the movies to see a film they’re interested in, or attending music concerts together. Your presence will help let them know that you care and value them.
3. Partner with School Officials – LGBTQ+ youth are more prone to bullying (and cyberbullying) and violence in school settings. Ultimately, bullying actions such as using incorrect pronouns or a dead name can impact their self-esteem, confidence, and sense of belonging and increase the risks of suicidality. We can help reduce these challenges by identifying and engaging with local school officials to implement policies and guidelines that help protect the safety of LGBTQ+ youth. It’s safe to say that a safer school environment fosters a better space to thrive for our youth.
4. Practice Self-Soothing Skills – The various challenges that LGBTQ+ youth face could easily lead to feeling overwhelmed, angry, lonely, sad, and frustrated. Constantly experiencing these feelings could lead to mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and suicide. Self-soothing helps regulate one’s emotions by tapping into your five senses, overall helping improve one’s mental health. Step outside on a cool day with your youth and practice grounding by describing what you see, hear, taste, feel, and smell together. Make this a regular practice that you two (or your family, friends, and peers) do together weekly.
As we think about our youth, what’s extremely important is that we figure out ways to be present, build strong relationships, connect, advocate, and practice skills that promote health and wellness. That’s how we can show up and care for them.
There are several ways to support and advocate for the Queer community. We invite you to use
the resources below to create your personal action plan:
InnoPsych’s latest Thriving Thursday Pride month episodes: