June 21, 2021
I found some gold this month and I want to share it. Throughout the past year, a slew of fantastic behavioral health webinars emerged in Virginia—so many, in fact, it was tough to engage in all of the ones I hoped. In the process of catching up and seeking wisdom to share during PRIDE Month, my co-worker turned me on to a webinar called, “LGBTQ+ Safer Spaces Basics Webinar,” created by Virginia Department of Behavioral Health in partnership with Side-by-Side, an invaluable LGBTQ+ resource. I’m compelled to share some key take-aways with Lock and Talk Virginia audience. If you are interested in viewing the presentation in its entirety, it is available on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAxZMhF3d7E
We look at data, we talk about data, we know LGBTQ+ youth are a high risk population for suicide thoughts and behavior. Why? We know every person has individual reasons for painful thoughts and our lives are each unique and complex, but there are some common reasons LGBTQ+ youth may feel a sense of isolation and this may cause despair if left unaddressed. Here is what I learned from DBHDS and Side-by-Side:
This kind of isolation could certainly wear anyone down. What can we all do to help? It turns out there are simple, tangible actions we can take that vastly improve the experience of our LGBTQ+ youth in our communities. I was struck by the information in one slide in particular:
This is a powerful suicide prevention message. One simple change in how consistently we respect someone’s chosen name = suicide prevention. Imagine what else we can accomplish! We can become allies to LGBTQ+ youth. Here’s how:
After watching the presentation, I reconnected with my co-worker, Glencora Gudger. She is the Behavioral Health Equity Consultant for DBHDS in the Office of Behavioral Health Wellness. I had a couple of questions for her:
“If you could make one request of the professionals who are working towards suicide prevention among our LGBTQ+ population, what would it be?”
Believe LGBTQ+ youth when they tell you who they are and how they identify, even (or especially) if you don’t understand or agree with them. Affirming a LGBTQ+ youth’s identity, respecting their preferences in gender identity and sexual orientation is one of the greatest protective factors any person/professional can provide.
If a young member of the LGBTQ+ population in Virginia is having suicidal thoughts (but not actively suicidal) and came upon our website, Lockandtalk.org, how would you suggest they utilize this site? Where do you think they should go first, what resources do you think would help them the most, what part would you recommend their family and friends read, and are there any links on the site that are especially helpful?
Good question, if they are having suicidal thoughts, I would direct them towards specific behavioral healthcare resources that support LGBTQ+ youth (see below in this post and on this site’s “For Individuals” tab https://lockandtalk.org/for-individuals/ ). They should seek out affirming care as soon as possible. These resources could also direct them to local resources relevant to their situation. Possibly another topic to bring up is that if these youth are interested in gun safety, then sharing that LGBTQ+ populations have elevated rates of victims of gun violence via hate crimes or interpersonal violence. This would be more an advocacy route for them.
Glencora and I hope you will share the links she provided and the expanded list of resources for LGBTQ+ in this post.
Finally, we’d like to help the general public understand the pronoun conversation. I’m attaching a helpful explanation for pronoun use so we may spread the word and begin using them with LGBTQ+ with confidence.
Rebecca Textor, She/Her
Lock and Talk Coordinator, DBHDS
Call to Action: Share the helpful LGBTQ+ resources shown here as widely as you can.
Parting Thought: “Act as if what you do makes a difference. IT DOES.” William James