Strengthening Our Schools to Promote Resilience and Health Among LGBTQ Youth
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) adolescents face well-documented health disparities in suicide risk, substance use, and sexual health. These disparities are known to stem, in part, from stigma directed toward LGBTQ youth in the form of minority stressors such as violence, discrimination, and harassment. Given the proportion of time that LGBTQ students spend in school, schools provide a critical context within which protective factors may be developed and leveraged to improve the health and wellbeing of these populations. This article provides a summary of key findings from a discussion among researchers, practitioners, and community members who participated in “The State of LGBTQ Youth Health and Wellbeing: Strengthening Schools and Families to Build Resilience,” a public symposium held in June 2017. We detail emerging science on and future priorities for school-based research with LGBTQ youth which were identified by attendees at this meeting, with a particular focus on intersectionality, supportive adults in schools, and in-school programs. We call for more school-based research on priority gaps such as how LGBTQ students’ intersecting identities affect their in-school experiences, how to design professional development programs that cultivate supportive educators, and how to leverage gay–straight alliances/gender and sexuality alliances as sites of health programming for LGBTQ students.
Read more at https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/lgbt.2018.0109
While we have been observing Pride Month we want the momentum to last all year, every year. As such, this week we encourage you to check out The Human Rights Campaign “Won’t Hide My Pride” page. There are numerous resources here that contribute to wellness directly, but also directly by raising awareness of relevant issues and providing opportunity to get involved in promoting humans right for those in the LGBTQIA+ community. Resources include information now how to become involved in the HRC “Count Me In” campaign, aimed at building a grassroots army of support for the transgender & non-binary community; Pride greeting cards; an HRC staff curated Pride playlist, and countless resources for yourself and the whole family.
The concept of Intersectionality is key in understanding wellness for all, especially members of the LGBTQIA+. Briefly, this is the concept that the many, interrelated systems that exist in our world and that often influence power and autonomy impact those who are most marginalized in society. To promote wellness, it is important to look beyond a person’s individual identities and focusing on the points of intersection that their multiple identities create to try to better appreciate their lived experience. To be a health care provider, or simply a good friend, family, or ally, an intersectional lens is needed.
You can learn more about Intersectionality, how it manifests, and how we can use what we learn from taking this perspective to promote wellness at http://www.lgbtiqintersect.org.au/learning-modules/intersectionality/. Some key take-aways are reflection questions are below.
Part of taking an intersectional approach is recognizing people’s lives are multi-dimensional and complex; we expect multiple stories
Human lives cannot be explained by single categories, such as gender, race, sexual orientation etc. Lived experience is an interactive process that goes beyond individual labels
Lived experience is shaped by the interaction of identities, contexts and social dynamics
People can experience privilege and oppression simultaneously
Structural inequity interacts with contextual factors and social dynamics, increasing marginalization, inequity, and health disparity
To understand someone’s experience, we must also understand structures and systems
Relationships involve power dynamics and power imbalances are inevitable. The question is how we acknowledge and negotiate power, particularly in institutions
Reflexivity can support service providers to increase their awareness of their positions of power
Urges transformation and collective work towards social justice
How do your own race, gender, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other identities intersect to form your experiences? Do you experience any forms of inequity or discrimination due to your identities? Are some more privileged? Are some less so?
What power dynamics do you experience in your occupation, family life, and other social contexts? Are there times in which you hold more power due to the nature of the relationship (e.g. between a doctor and their patient) or vice versa? In what ways do these power dynamics affect your interactions with other people and services?
What are some ways in which you can support people to share the complexity of their lives?
Coping strategies can buffer the impact of identity-related stigma and decreased psychological well-being. As such, there has been increased interest in the ongoing coping strategies used by LGBTQIA+ people to promote their wellness, especially over the last several years as threats to their identity and emotional and physical wellbeing have increased. Accordingly, some guidance is offered below from psychologists Kirsten A. Gonzalez, a Latinx, heterosexual, cisgender woman; Roberto L. Abreu, who identifies as a first-generation Latinx gay cisgender man; and Lex Pulice-Farrow, a counseling psychology doctoral student who identifies as a White queer nonbinary person. Their recommendations are summary of what was shared by 335 LGBTQIA+ individuals who have been negatively impacted by a variety of discriminatory and threatening events in recent years. Complete details are offered in their article “In the Voices of People Like Me” at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/00110000211057199
Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. While the Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States, there is still a long road to go toward equality. The treatment of those in the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ community by our society historically and at presently has had a significant impact on wellness, and so to honor Pride Month we will be posting weekly content meant to promote wellness in this area.
As if often the case, the first step toward change is education. So for Week 01, check out Boston University’s comprehensive education library. If we want to promote wellness for all, it starts with understanding the issues pertinent to the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ community, connecting with local and national organizations and initiatives, and re-assessing what it means to be truly inclusive and welcoming. You can do all of this at https://www.bumc.bu.edu/wellness/diversity/creating-diverse-environment/key-lgbt-health-resources/.
Having a month dedicated to raising awareness to a cause can be helpful, but that is only a starting point. We need to be called to sustained action going forward to make real, permanent change happen. For mental health, part of that involves every day efforts to eliminate the stigma of mental health conditions and seeking treatment. As outlined by NAMI, “the need to eliminate stigma is nothing new. Fifteen years ago, a U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health—the first and only one to date—identified stigma as a public health concern that leads peoples to “avoid living, socializing or working with, renting to, or employing” individuals with mental illness.” So as we wrap-up mental health awareness month, will you consider taking NAMI’s pledge to work toward eliminating the stigma of mental health and mental health treatment? Learn more and take the pledge below…
While the emphasis on addressing the growing mental health needs of our country is often placed no the role professionals play, we often lose site of what it is we can do for each other. As shared on their website, this is the focus of mental health month at National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI). As part of this they are seeking to amplify the message of “Together for Mental Health.” They are using this month and their platform to bring our voices together to advocate for mental health and access to care through NAMI’s blog, personal stories, videos, digital toolkits, social media engagements and national events. In this they feel that we can realize our shared vision of a nation where anyone affected by mental illness can get the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy, fulfilling lives.
As Mental Health Awareness Month continues we want to assure everyone is checking in with themselves. While the names of many mental health diagnoses have made their way into our everyday vocabulary, not all of us have been given the opportunity to learn what they are and to what degree the are part of our lived experience. As such, this week we encourage you to have a look at the mental health screening tools offered by Mental Health America at https://screening.mhanational.org/screening-tools/. If you suspect you are living with one of these conditions, be sure to check out our resources page to get connected with a professional to discuss this further. Cooper employees and their families can take advantage of CareBridge, more information is available at http://wellness.cooperhealth.org/carebridge/. Everyone can also have a look at the PsychologyToday therapist locator at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us, which lets you filter by location, insurance status, and specific issues you would want to address in therapy.
Each May, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services observes Mental Health Awareness Month. During this month, our featured posts will focus on promoting information about promoting and maintaining good mental health, as well as what to do when you are someone you love are struggling. This week, we are focusing on some basic facts about mental health as presented by Mental Health America (MHA).
With mental health entering more and more of our daily conversations, it’s critical that everyone has a solid foundation of knowledge about mental health.
Addressing mental health symptoms early is critically important for overall health. From social determinants of health to genetics, many factors are in play when it comes to mental health conditions, but there are protective measures that can prevent mental health conditions from developing or keep symptoms from becoming severe.
While 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health.
About half of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their life, with symptoms starting by age 24 for the majority of people.
The average delay between symptom onset and treatment is 11 years, meaning a lot of people spend months or years facing mental health challenges before getting a diagnosis. It is never too early to seek treatment for your mental health. Intervening effectively during early stages can save lives and is critically important for people living with mental health conditions.
Social, cultural, and historical factors often impact the mental health of communities that have traditionally been marginalized. These communities experience overt racism and bigotry far too often, which leads to a mental health burden that is deeper than what others may face.
Life can be challenging, but every day shouldn’t feel hard or out of your control. If it does, one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition is to take a mental health screening at mhascreening.org.
The delays in treatment for mental health conditions are longer than for many other health conditions. Getting screened increases the chances of getting treatment. Mental Health America has free, anonymous, and scientifically validated mental health screens at mhascreening.org.
Your screening results can be used to start a conversation with your primary care provider or a trusted friend or family member, and you can begin to plan a course of action for addressing your mental health.
When facing a mental health concern or living with a mental health condition, it’s common to feel like no one understands what you’re going through. You aren’t alone – help is available, and recovery is possible.
Starting July 16, 2022, call 988 for matters of mental health crisis. Calling 988 will connect you directly to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is staffed by trained crisis counselors 24/7, 365 days a year.
One of the most consistent and powerful predictors of wellbeing is a sense of being connected to our fellow humans. That sense of connectedness was already fraying pre-COVID and, in may ways, has worsened since. But this is a solvable problem! The folks over at The Art of Health Living have created a list of 10 very different ways you can improve your sense of connectedness to your community today. These range from longer term commitments like volunteering, to things that may only take a half hour or so like donating blood.