Pride Month: Changing our culture, protecting our youth
National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month is an annual celebration in June of the LGBTQ (Q stands for “questioning” or “queer”) community. During this month, LGBTQ individuals – and their supporters – seek to raise awareness of the ongoing challenges and struggles LGBTQ youth and adults face as they strive to achieve greater understanding and acceptance in their daily lives.
Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health proudly supports diversity and inclusion for all individuals. The nonprofit organization stands firmly alongside LGBTQ youth and adults, working to help eliminate discrimination and create a more accepting culture and world.
“We must continue talking about LGBTQ awareness – not only during Pride Month, but all year long,” said Devereux Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical/Medical Officer Yolanda Graham, M.D., “Changing our culture and protecting LGBTQ individuals – especially our youth – is not a ‘one-and-done’ educational campaign. As long as LGBTQ youth are marginalized, discriminated against, bullied and at risk of suicide, the conversation needs to continue.”
Suicide risks and prevention for LGBTQ youth
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), suicide is one of the leading causes of death for LGBTQ individuals, ages 10 to 24. NAMI states that LGBTQ youth are four times more likely, and questioning youth are three times more likely, to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts or engage in self-harm, compared to heterosexual youth.
Graham notes that bullying is a “significant contributing factor” in the high rate of suicide among LGBTQ youth.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) shows that 27.1 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual high school students have been bullied electronically (text messages, Instagram, Facebook, etc.), compared to 13.3 percent of heterosexual students. The survey also shows that 33 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual high school students have been bullied on school property, versus 17.1 percent of heterosexual students.
“We need to create safe environments and a culture of respect within the school system,” Graham explained. “This can include incorporating curricula to be taught at all grade levels; developing gay-straight alliances and gay support groups; creating anti-bullying campaigns; and implementing strict disciplinary guidelines for bullying.”
The importance of family support
The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth, states that youth who feel rejected by their families are 8.4 times more likely to have attempted suicide, versus their peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.
“LGBTQ youth who feel rejected by their parents often lose their last best hope for understanding and support,” Graham shared. “Even if they feel rejected elsewhere in their lives, knowing their family loves and supports them is likely the biggest protective and resilience factor for LGBTQ youth.”
Devereux’s efforts to promote inclusion
To coincide with Pride Month, Devereux’s LGBTQ Committee announced that the organization is adopting the Gender Affirmation Model, developed by the American Psychological Association. This treatment of choice for transgender and gender expansive youth focuses on the resilience and overall wellness of children and their families, and addresses the psychological, social, cultural and community challenges faced by gender diverse youth.
In addition, Devereux is proud to have a strong partnership with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the U.S.
Devereux Arizona, Devereux Florida and Devereux Georgia have all earned the “HRC All Children – All Families Seal of Recognition.” The All Children – All Families initiative provides a comprehensive framework for agencies to establish policies and practices that welcome, support and affirm LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents. Devereux Pennsylvania Children’s Behavioral Health Services is currently undergoing the certification process.
“Earning the Seal of Recognition requires organizations, like Devereux, to examine every aspect of care – from our admissions paperwork to the supports and services we provide – to ensure we are promoting inclusive policies and practices,” Graham explained. “When LGBTQ youth need support, they can rest assured Devereux is a ‘safe place’ that is committed to providing the best possible care for all individuals.”
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