In the month of June, the United States of America turns their attention to the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community to celebrate Pride Month. Many families are part of this community by way of being gay parents or are raising children that are identifying as part of the LGBTQ community.
While there are many individuals and families of all different make-up‘s, many of those who identify that have a connection to the LGBTQ community, often also identify their mental health has been impacted based on their identification in their community. Often they report they have experienced some sort of impact on their mental health based on their identification of their sexual preference or gender identification.
In the world of children’s mental health, there are often times families who are encountering for the first time what it means to have a child identifying other than heterosexual. In the same way that there are many ways people self identify, there are also many ways in which families respond or try to understand the impacts of being part of the gay community. Teen suicide is at an all-time high and many of these youth have identified as part of the gay community in one way or another. NBC News reported in February 2019, that 1 in 4 pre-teens that have committed death by suicide were a part of the LGBTQ community.
While society has come leaps and bounds in the topic of gay rights and how people in the gay community are treated, there is still a long way to go. Youth who identify as LBGTQ are often bullied or outcast from their peer groups and often times from their families. Gender identification changes can start as early as one or two years old. Others may be adolescence and in learning about their sexual preferences may be struggling with realizing they are gay and may be in a family who they believe would not support them in identifying that way. There are so many factors that play into our youth identifying in the LGBTQ community. How they have been raised, what their religion is, their race, their culture and often it’s a mix of many of these different factors. At a time when a youth is growing and trying to figure out themselves as a human being to be facing these types of worries often impacts mental health in a significant way. Below are some resources free both youth and families on how you can address this conversation in a healthy way with your family or if you’re a family with your child.
We all know our mental health is as important as our physical health and the LGBTQ Community is one who knows well how much environmental factors impact mental health.
As a parent who is raising a child who is part of this community, we have seen our fair share of struggles. While the interactions my child has had based on her identification have impacted her life, we have been lucky that she has not ever been bullied or threatened in a way that impacts her mental health significantly. However, we have other people within our family who have not had the same type of experiences. We are a family that can be divided about what it means to identify in the LGBTQ community. While as a mother, in my personal opinion, I believe people are born who they are and I support my child’s choices emphatically. There are others within our family who are still trying to understand what this means and what it means to have a family member who identifies in this way. These conflicting thoughts often times created difficult conversations that we have had to work through.
June is a time of celebration for the LGBTQ community, however I believe also a time of reflection about what it is currently happening that isn’t going well and conversely how far the community has come. Often times in celebration and reflection we realize that circumstances are bittersweet.
The reality is that even with progress, in this moment there is a youth that is cutting themselves, or contemplating suicide, or thinking about how they can get out of their depression and be the person who they truly are related to their gender or sexuality. And while many people may not agree with the LGBTQ community or even believe that being gay is real; what is real is that suicide rates among youth identifying in this community are skyrocketing. Every life on this planet is important and every individual has the right to have a healthy mindset and a loving experience in this world.
Remember to be kind to each other.
Kristi Glenn is Co-Founder of Pinnacle Partnerships and a professional with lived experience of raising her own child with emotional health needs. She has worked in government, community, and direct service to support family driven care and advocate for family voice at the highest levels.