A Call to Action
I looked at my daily planner last night to see my tasks for Wednesday. It’s Wednesday, May 25th. The day after another mass school shooting in Texas. This headline staring me in the face “Shooter barricaded himself in classroom, killing 19 children and 2 teachers…”. I told my husband last night that I have this blog to write about Pride Month and I don’t even know what I want to say now. He said “I would focus on unity, and not division.” I needed that.
Pride and Unity
We are divided. Now more so than I’ve ever seen before. Pride is about Unity. Coming together as a community of LGBTQ+ individuals and allies to celebrate our differences and continue the fight for those still heavily marginalized because they are different. Pride is adaptive and flexible, a stream allowing anyone who needs that sense of being part of something a place to go and be part of something. It’s always moving towards something bigger than itself. That stream always does better when its banks are open and accepting of all around it. The instant, however, you put a wall up, you begin to choke off the waters until, eventually, that stream dries up and stops flowing. Stops feeding into the bigger bodies of water and further prevents progress.
Mental health is such a problem right now. People don’t have the resources or access to the help they need. Medical costs continue to rise and we can’t even agree on how healthcare should be handled in our nation. This inability to take a step back and say ‘hey, this isn’t equitable, how do we get there’ is what holds us back.
When we start talking about Pride and why The Y gets involved, there is a statistic that always draws our attention. The statistic is based the number of LGBTQ+ youth who contemplate suicide. In a 2020 survey conducted by The Trevor Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning young people, they found that 38% of those who responded seriously considered attempting suicide. In their 2022 survey, they found that number had jumped up to 45%. As I read these statistics, my heart sank even further.
60% of those surveyed who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it. LGBTQ+ youth who live in an accepting community reported significantly lower rates of attempting suicide. Read those sentences again. Then read it again to make sure it sticks.
2021 was my first year back to a Pride event in a very long time. What I saw in youth and families was the level of self-expression the youth have nowadays! Parents were there wearing the shirts and showing support. Shirts reading ‘free hugs’ and people, during the parade, walking up for those hugs. The tears and sense of belonging was incredibly strong and brought warmth to my heart. But the work doesn’t just stop at the end of Pride celebrations. The work needs to continue. We absolutely need to do better because, in just two years, that suicide attempt rate jumped 5% and, again, 60% of those surveyed who wanted mental health care were not able to get it.
Here is my call to action for everyone out there. Take a step back. Look at all of the rhetoric designed to divide and separate us. Look at what that is doing to the mental health of your family, friends and colleagues. Ask yourself ‘is what I am saying going to have serious consequences to the person I am talking to’?
Remember that your words have an impact on those around you. Heck, even things my family said about an uncle of mine prevented me from wanting to come out to them back when I was growing up. I was one of the lucky ones though who knew my family loved me and I was able to be true about myself to them. Not everyone has that.
One thing we wanted to do this year was share resources and a reminder that not everyone you know may have the support and resources they need to cope with identity or find the support they need. The CDC has a wonderful page dedicated to LGBTQ Health. Remember that YOU can be the support for someone who may be struggling! LGBTQ Youth Resources | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health | CDC
You can also read, and I highly recommend you do so, the entire survey results from the Trevor Project I mentioned earlier here: The Trevor Project: 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health
We would also love to invite you and your family to march with us during the Heartland Pride Parade on July 16th 2022. If you are interested, register here. Note, shirt purchase is OPTIONAL! YMCA Pride-2022 | YMCA of Greater Omaha (metroymca.org)
Michael O'Neil, Charles E. Lakin YMCA Health & Wellness Director