To honor Pride month we wanted to share some tips on how to support these community members. Mental health is an important factor in every person’s life, however experiencing mental health conditions while also being in the LGBTQUIA+ community can be even more stressful and less talked about. In the video provided Tally and Jasmine discuss their experiences of being in the LGBTQUIA+ community and how it intersects with their mental health, as well as coping strategies.
An important factor in strengthening the mental wellbeing of people in the LGBTQUIA+ community is having social support (https://www.lgbtqiahealtheducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Suicide-Risk-and-Prevention-for-LGBTQ-Patients-Brief.pdf). Support can be shown to members of the LGBTQUIA+ community in a number of ways and doesn’t necessarily have to come from other members in the community to have an impact. One way to show support to members of the LGBTQUIA+ community is by acknowledging their strengths which may include:
- Social Intelligence
- Empathy for Others
(To have a deeper understanding about mental health experiences in the LGBTQUIA+ community look through the Mental Health Coalition’s Roadmap to LGBTQ+ Mental Health).
Acknowledging these strengths can also be a way to tell people that their worth is being recognized beyond their identity in the LGBTQUIA+ community. Supporting the mental health of anyone means supporting them holistically, not just specific parts of their identity.
And while there is a wider acceptance of members in the LGBTQUIA+ community, it is important to provide intentional support to these individuals. As Alok Vaid-Menon says in an interview with StyleLikeU “When we go to the club everyone is going to say ‘Oh my God, I love your outfit’ but no one is going to say ‘How are you getting home?”. Some ways to intentionally show support are to:
- Make no assumptions
- Use inclusive language
- Respond to anti-LGBT behavior
(Visit GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit to learn more about creating accepting and supportive environments for member of the LGBTQUIA+ community).
In order to not make assumptions we need to use non-judgmental questions to know what type of support the individual is asking of us. When an individual does disclose that they identify as LGBTQUIA+, its important to understand how they would like to be addressed. Ask if they use a different name or pronouns than ones indicated on official paperwork. If someone does approach you about services related to the LGBTQUIA+ community ask if they are looking for services that are in-person or virtual, anonymous, on or off campus, or about any other service types that are sensitive to the privacy of their identity. Don’t bring up their identity around others unless they do first or have explicitly stated that they are open about their identity. Disclosing one’s identity is a very personal process and everyone does it when they are ready- never pressure anyone to disclose if they are ready but simply provide support.
It may also be beneficial to direct peers/students to resources that can offer ongoing support. The LGBTQIA Resource center hosts multiple programs throughout the year, has all gender inclusive restrooms, and can support students with name changing name/gender on university documents. They also provide resources for allies including a pronoun practicing website. The greater Chicago area has many outlets that the LGBTQUIA+ community can turn to for mental health support, some include Center on Halstead, IntraSpectrum, and Howard Brown Health Services.