As the holiday season is finally underway many of us are looking forward to spending time with our loved ones and celebrating togetherness. However, it is worth noting that for some this time of year is marked by feelings of stress and even sadness. For LBGTQ+ youth who have faced rejection or have not come out yet to their families due to fear of rejection, the holidays can feel incredibly difficult. According to Trevor Project Crisis Service Manager Odalis Gonzales “Our busiest times are actually the days before and after the holidays. Young people are considering whether or not to “come out”, are facing isolation or judgment from family, or are unable to go home at all, and these are just a few stressors that our youth may face”.
Studies have shown that LBGTQ+ youth are at greater risk for poor mental health and suicidality than their heterosexual counterparts (Rivers et al., 2018). The CDC also reports that LBGTQ+ youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost 3 times the rate and are almost 5 times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to their straight peers. Additional research is indicating that suicidality within the LBGTQ+ community is influenced by two interpersonal experiences 1) feeling that one does not belong to meaningful relationship groups and 2) feeling that one is a burden to others (Ingram et al., 2019). Feelings of not belonging and of being burdensome are commonly reported by youth who have experienced extreme bullying as well as other forms of victimization. Youth also expressed experiencing feelings of being a burden when deciding whether or not to come out to friends and family.
We know that all youth need and deserve to feel social, emotionally, and physically safe and supported to live healthy and happy lives. Research by McCormick & Balgride has found that family acceptance is one of the strongest predictors of physical health, mental health, and well-being. LBGTQ+ youth who feel they have accepting families are 8 times less likely to attempt suicide and 6 times less likely to meet depression criteria. These youth have also been found to be less likely to engage in substance abuse and other risky behaviors. This research shows us that while the struggles LBGTQ+ youth are facing are ever-present there all small steps that those closest to them can take to lessen their struggles and to provide a safe space. Here are some tips for how to supportively engage with the LBGTQ youth in your life this holiday season:
- Treat an LBGTQ+ person as you would treat anyone else in your family
- Don’t ask your LBGTQ+ family member to act a certain way. Allow them the space to be their authentic selves.
- If your LBGTQ+ family member is bringing a partner, include them in your family traditions.
- If you are unsure of your family members' pronouns, respectfully ask in private and make an effort to use those pronouns.
After the holiday festivities pass, be sure to follow up with them to check-in, tell them how happy you were to spend time with them.
If you are LBGTQ+ and find yourself needing immediate help or just a little extra support this holiday season resources are available at www.thetrevorproject.org.
By: Chandler Golden
Chandler is a 1st-year master’s student completing her degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the University of Denver and a registered psychotherapist in the state of Colorado. Chandler received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in African American Diaspora Studies at the Xavier University of Louisiana. She has experience working with at-risk youth who have experienced trauma and mental health difficulties. Chandler’s areas of interest include mental health concerns within low-income communities of color, depression in adolescents, art therapy, as well as trauma and other related mental health issues. Chandler is currently interning with the Denver Adolescent Therapy Group at Stevenson Therapy Services.
Ingram, K., Mintz, S., Hartley, C., Valido, A., Espelage, D., & Wyman, P. (2019). Predictors of Suicidal Ideation and Attempts among LGBTQ Adolescents: The Roles of Help-seeking Beliefs, Peer Victimization, Depressive Symptoms, and Drug Use. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 28(9), 2443-2455.
McCormick, A., & Baldridge, S. (2019). Family Acceptance and Faith: Understanding the Acceptance Processes of Parents of LGBTQ Youth. Social Work and Christianity : Journal of the National Association of Christians in Social Work., 46(1), 32.
Rivers, I., Gonzalez C., Nodin N., Peel E., & Tyler A. (2018). LGBT people and suicidality in youth: A qualitative study of perceptions of risk and protective circumstances. Social Science & Medicine, 212, 1-8
Saving Young LGBTQ Lives. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2019, from https://www.thetrevorproject.org/.