Supporting Queer Youth & Adult Mental Health

By Dr. Charmain Jackman



As we close out June and Pride Month, I want to take this opportunity to share some highlights

from conversations that I have had with our amazing Queer therapists and mental health

advocates on Thriving Thursdays this month.


Here are 5 learning opportunities that I will be taking on:

1. Language matters - Using inclusive language is a powerful way to let people know that

they are welcomed, affirmed, and accepted. However, as Dr. Sarah Moon suggests,

language is constantly changing, and as a result you will likely make mistakes. When you

receive feedback about a mistake you made, listen, apologize and do better next time.


2. Create affirming and accepting spaces - Research from The Trevor Project highlights

that there is a 40% decline in suicide rates when an adolescent has an accepting adult!

Queer youth have higher levels of anxiety, depression, suicide attempts, and

homeslessness that is usually caused by rejection from family, peers, teachers, clergy.

They may also choose to suffer in silence because of the fear of being the target of

violence. Creating spaces like Gender & Sexuality Alliance groups, affinity

groups/employee resource groups (ERGs) provide spaces for people to gather in

supportive ways.


3. Normalize pronoun use - It is essential to help the individuals around you feel respected

and acknowledged in a way that works best for that individual. It is important to

normalize asking people about the pronouns they use (not the pronouns they prefer).

Some people also do not use pronouns, and just want to use their names. While some may

fret about grammar, centering the experiences of our Trans and Gender Queer friends and

colleagues is the most important thing here. No one likes being misgendered!


4. Avoid the gender binary - Our gender vocabulary is extremely binary, which can leave

people feeling excluded in the different spaces at work, schools, and even at home.

Gender guessing games and gender reveal parties reinforce the gender binary. Also,

asking caregivers about the gender of their child (e.g., Do you have a boy or girl?) is

another way that the gender binary gets reinforced. If you want to know more about a co-

workers child/ren, try asking about their grades or their child’s hobbies.


5. Celebrate Queer History and Culture - Dr. Sarah Moon highlighted that there is so

much joy, connection, and community within the Queer identity and expressed the

importance of celebrating Pride month. Also, learning Queer history and including in

curriculum and other programming is essential to highlighting the contributions of Queer

individuals.


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:

Dr. Jackman and Dr. David Zelaya

Dr. Jackman and Reverend Dr. Pastor Crowley

Dr. Jackman and Dr. Sarah Moon


Additional Resources:

Innopsych’s Resource Page

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) LGBT Youth Resources

The Trevor project

GLSEN

Pflag.org