June is pride month, which is a fantastic way to celebrate all of those in the LGBTQ+ community. We thought it would be important to also raise awareness to the increased risks of mental illness experienced by those who identify at LGBTQ+, and share a few ways we can help to prevent the risks from becoming anything more than risks. A 2010 study showed that 47% of trans youth in Ontario had thought about suicide, and 19% had actually attempted suicide in the preceding year (Scanlon, Travers, Coleman, Bauer, & Boyce, 2010). LGBTQ+ youth contemplate suicide two to three times the rate of youth who identify as straight, so it’s important to know how to help them through the tough times of coming to terms with their sexuality or gender identity.
How Can We Help?
Look for Signs- Educating yourself and your loved ones on the warning signs of suicide and depression is a great way to help LGBTQ+ youth. It’s important to recognize when your child/friend/student/sibling is behaving differently than usual so that you can help to avoid a potential crisis. Resources such as The Trevor Project or Crisis Services Canada are readily available resources for anyone struggling with depression or suicidal ideation.
Open Your Ears- Sometimes we just need to talk it out. From a simple “you okay?” to a more in depth conversation about emotions and how to cope, it’s important to be ready and willing to listen to the individual that is struggling. It’s also important not to push the individual to speak when they aren’t ready to. Whether or not the person has come out, try to show empathy and understand that speaking about their thoughts and feelings may be incredibly difficult and scary for them. Prepare yourself for the possibility of a tough conversation, and make sure they know that you’re there to support them through their hard times, not to judge them for how they feel or the choices they are making despite your own belief.
Be Open Minded- Often times it’s hard for loved ones to fully understand what certain labels mean. Gender dysphoria, two-spirited and queer are all terms that not everyone is familiar with- so it’s important to be open to learning about any label that your loved one may or may not put on themselves. The Ma Group has put together a list of many gender and sexuality identifying terms to help better understand some of the newer and less “common” identifiers.
Be Supportive- As tough as it may be to hear that your loved one is going through a hard time, I can assure you it’s even harder on them. Admitting that they need help is a step in the right direction, and you need to be there for them. Thank them for trusting you enough to open up and talk about their thoughts and feelings, and ensure them that you will do your best to support them no matter what.
If you feel that your loved one’s symptoms are severe enough that they might inflict harm on themselves or others, direct them to the nearest emergency department or mental health facility.
Dr. Diana Garcia
Dr. Diana Garcia has over 20 years of experience in the field of psychology. She has provided psychological and counseling services in Ontario, and the states of Pennsylvania, and Florida