Supporting the LGBTQI+ Community Beyond Pride Month

As we finish out the month and near the celebration of our independence, I’ve reflected a lot this month on inclusivity. I was blessed to see so much love and acceptance throughout this month as I paid closer attention to it. Participating in Elgin’s first pride parade with FSA was a wonderful experience. You could feel, see, and hear the love of the community as they sat on the side of the streets watching the colorful vehicles and humans march together handing out goodies to all those who came to show support to the LGBTQI+ community.

I also, unfortunately, witnessed much of the opposite. I saw numerous companies being dragged through the mud for supporting the LGBTQI+ community by selling pride gear. I naively thought we were moving past this. With the 4th around the corner, I’m reflecting on what it truly means to be free. Free to express oneself without hatred or free to be who they are without fear of reactions or retaliation even.

I also read quite a few hurtful comments on social media, mostly that of religious righteousness, damning those who are sinful. One even went on and on about how sinful it was to have pride in one’s sexuality. The opposite of pride is shame. Imagine telling someone to feel shame instead of pride for who they are. So, what can we do to help this community for the other 11 months of the year? First, we must understand the gravity of the mental health issues within the community, especially with the youth.

There’s some very eye-opening statistics regarding the LGBTQI+ community and mental health. The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. That equates to an estimate that more than  1.8 million LGBTQ youth (13-24) seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S. — and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds.

Here's some tips on how we can support friends and family as well as resources for recognizing mental health warning signs from - Five Ways to Support LGBTQ+ Mental Health:

  • Learn about LGBTQ+ issues and mental health warning signs. Take the time to understand  LGBTQ+ identities, experiences,and challenges. Educate yourself about the warning signs of mental illness.
  • Listen actively and with compassion. Communicate openly and listen to their experiences, feelings, and concerns without judgment. Let them know they are heard and supported. Let them know you are there for them — offer unconditional support. Consider your own assumptions and biases.
  • Respect their identity. Respect the identity of LGBTQ+ people in your life; affirm how they choose to live and use their chosen gender pronouns.
  • Help create a safe and accepting environment. Foster an atmosphere of acceptance, love, and support within your family or social circle. Help to educate and inform others.
  • Support their access to mental health resources when needed. Connect them to supportive networks, social groups or mentors in the LGBTQ+ community. If you see signs of distress, reach out to offer help and support. Help them connect to LGBTQ+-friendly mental health resources.
  • For more mental health resources visit Mental Health | The Trevor Project

We can always do better. Be better for our fellow humans. It starts in the home by teaching our youth about being inclusive and loving everyone just as they are. Pride support should be year-round, not just the month of June. Together we can continue to spread love, acceptance and understanding to those who need it most. This is my hope for us.

If you would like to learn more about how to support the LGBTQI+ youth community visit The Trevor Project | For Young LGBTQ Lives.

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