Letter for LGBTQ+ Youth
Given the profound personal loss and uncertainty so many have experienced over the last year, there is renewed attention to the importance of mental health and the groups most impacted by pandemic-related mental health issues. In fact, a 2020 study by Children’s Rights found that LGBTQ+ youth, in particular, experienced higher rates of mental health issues due to the toxic stress of living with discrimination and rejection during the pandemic. The subgroup of LGBTQ+ foster youth are no exception and they continue to be overrepresented in the child welfare system.
The Individualized Transition Skills Program (ITSP) team at Children’s Institute acknowledges that all of our youth transitioned to a virtual setting, creating added strain on their mental health. LGBTQ+ foster youth, in particular, were impacted by the loss of affirming relationships in schools, outdoor activities, clubs, and community LGBTQ+ youth organizations.
In response to this, the ITSP team created a support group during the pandemic called “The Bright Room” to provide LGBTQ+ youth with a much-needed safe space where they could have open discussions on different issues and share their experiences. The Bright Room has allowed our LGBTQ+ youth to feel heard, supported and acknowledged as they face barriers during the coming out process.
As an ITSP supervisor and part of the LGBTQ+ community, I found it important to have our ITSP team participate in an LGBTQ+ tool kit training during the pandemic. The training was geared towards service providers looking to provide more culturally relevant care for LGBTQ+ youth. The training augments the ITSP team’s efforts as we continue to provide support, resources, and training to our LGBTQ+ transition-age youth, who continue to face disparities.
As we celebrate PRIDE month, I want our youth to know that you all have so much potential and are so unique. Your paths may seem full of uncertainty but do not lose hope that life will get better. The biggest blessing is to be true to who you are and never doubt that you deserve everything the world has to offer. Always aspire, inspire and thrive as you move through your life.