Happy Pride Month!
Pride Month is a time to acknowledge the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, honor the activists who fought for the rights and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, and those the community has lost to violence and mental illness.
Camino a Casa works closely with youth and their families to create a safe space for them to explore their sexual identity and gender expression. Our Gender Expansive Services provide youth a safe space to explore their identities.
Youth present with a range of normal human sexuality needs, related to sexual orientation and gender identity expression (SOGIE). These range from typical developmental questions and confusion to transgender identity. The staff is trained in affirmative therapy approaches to support youth to assess needs and ensure that the youth feels safe. This includes providing youth with the appropriate bedroom and bathroom adjustments based upon how the youth define their gender. These needs are identified prior to admission and assessed on an ongoing basis with the entire treatment team — Camino a Casa interdisciplinary staff, the youth, family members, and the insurance provider. Those youths who present additional risk factors, including a history of elopement, substance abuse, sexually reactive behavior, and hopelessness have individualized treatment plans that provide additional interventions designed to reduce risk and increase awareness SOGIE issues.
Why Pride Month is Important
Youth struggling with gender and sexuality issues are at a higher risk of suffering from mental health issues. Pride Month is not just about acceptance of a youth’s LGBTQ+–it is about helping remove the discrimination, rejection, and aggression towards all members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Sexual identity and gender expression can begin at a young age, even well before the youth may be aware. Recent societal changes have allowed many youths to be comfortable coming out to family and friends. Historically, there has not been many resources available to LGBTQ+ youth, which contributes to the many struggles they face. Some of the many challenges these youth face include:
- ACCESS TO CARE: Many LGBTQ+ youth do not have adequate access to specialized physical and mental healthcare. The Trevor Project states that “more than half (54%) of LGBTQ youth who reported wanting mental health care in the past year did not receive it.”
- RISK OF VIOLENCE: According to the CDC, LBGTQ+ youth are at an “increased risk for experiences with violence. Violence can include behaviors such as bullying, teasing, harassment, and physical assault.”
- INCREASED RISK OF MENTAL ILLNESS: LBGTQ+ youth are at an increased risk of mental illness. The Trevor Project states that “39% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months, with more than half of transgender and non-binary youth having seriously considered.”
How to Help Youth
There is room for improvement to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ youth and the community at large. Here are some of the steps we can take to help our youth and create a safe environment for them to feel safe coming out and to not be afraid to ask for help.
- FAMILIARIZE: Taking the time to learn common sexual identity/gender expression terms and evolving language will go a long way in communicating with your youth.
- LANGUAGE: Work together with family and friends to undo harmful language and stereotypes that discriminates, invalidates, or erases a youth’s sexual identity and gender expression.
- BE KIND: Parents, caregivers, family members, and friends should recognize their own bias and find ways to work together with the youth to help them get the support they need.
- BE RECEPTIVE TO CHANGE: Although change may be difficult, it is important to work through the changes and feelings of both the youth and the people in their lives.
- GET HELP: It is important to reach out to programs such as Camino a Casa if a youth, a youth’s caregiver, or a youth’s family is struggling with their mental health.
Together We Can Be One
By working together with youth, their families, and the community, we can increase the mental health and wellness of LGBTQ+ youth. All Camino a Casa youth are eligible to participate in our My-Dentity group, which is an optional therapeutic group with a focus on exploring SOGIE. Because we understand the importance that family plays in the stability and well-being of the youth we serve, all efforts are made to maintain ongoing contact and communication with those important to them. This is done through phone communication, facilitating visits, inviting families to important celebrations, FEAT activities, family therapy, and facilitating youth involvement in their community of origin. In addition, to the work we do internally to support our special populations, we also engage community partners who specialize in these populations.
LGBT Youth | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health | CDC
Breaking Barriers to Quality Mental Health Care for LGBTQ Youth – The Trevor Project
Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Youth – PMC (nih.gov)
Russell, S. T., & Fish, J. N. (2016). Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Youth. Annual review of clinical psychology, 12, 465–487. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-021815-093153