October is LGBTQ+ History Month, and on Mondays on ABC7 Eyewitness News at 7 a.m., we focus on mental health. This Monday, we focused on the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth.
Young LGBTQ+ people are at high risk of depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. We spoke to Terra Russell-Slavin, Chief Impact Officer at the LA LGBT Center.
Why do we celebrate LGBT history month in October? And how is this different from Pride?
Russell-Slavin: "LGBTQ+ History Month is really about celebrating uplifting and acknowledging the contributions of LGBTQ+ people throughout history. It's celebrated in October, because that's actually when the first two marches on Washington, D.C., which were key critical moments in our movement's history, took place back in the '70s and '80s. It has been celebrated for nearly 19 years now. And I think it's really important because it overlaps so much with school. And I think that being able to acknowledge in a school in school settings, the critical importance of LGBTQ+ historical figures and icons, so that people who can see themselves and can understand that there are other people who have been LGBTQ+ throughout history, to feel more connected. And I think that has a significant impact and important impact. When we talk about reducing risk of social harms and social determinants of health and making sure that people feel less isolated."
How would you describe the state of mental health among young LGBTQ plus people today?
Russell-Slavin: "Unfortunately, I think given the extreme attacks we're facing in our country, right now, there's been more than 700 Anti LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state houses across the country. Studies that are coming out show that LGBTQ+ youth in particular are at disproportionate risk of experiencing mental health challenges. So we really want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to change that and push back against those narratives."
Young LGBTQ plus people often struggle sometimes to find mental health care, let alone care that's tailored to meet their specific needs. Why is this such a struggle for them? And what resources are available?
Russell-Slavin: "I feel like just generally speaking, finding quality, competent mental health care for the LGBTQ+ community as a whole is hard. And then I think for youth is even harder. I'll just give you a couple of things going on this month. One is this Saturday, the Los Angeles LGBT Center is hosting our annual Models of Pride event, which really is a space for youth ages 14 to 24 to come together. It's a free conference to connect. And there will be lots of resources and the ability to connect with programs and other organizations, and just each other, I think in ways that sometimes doesn't feel possible when you're not able to be out in the classroom or out to your family. I think it's really critical and I'm very excited that we're able to host this conference, and also that we continue to work in the schools and try to make sure that our youth have the resources they need to thrive."
How can we as a community, as a whole support the mental health of young LGBTQ+ people?
Russell-Slavin: "I think when you're interacting with an LGBTQ+ youth or someone you think is an LGBTQ+ youth, to really be there to show up and offer affirming services or to be supportive in their life and listen to the concerns they have. What we know is that one affirming adult decreases the risk of suicidality by 40%. So it's so critical because so many youth still don't have that affirming adult."
If you are experiencing suicidal, substance use or other mental health crises please call or text the new three-digit code at 988. You will reach a trained crisis counselor for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also go to 988lifeline.org.