Utah LGBTQ community highlights mental health during Pride Month

Jun 15, 2023, 12:52 PM | Updated: 1:16 pm

Pride Month is a good time to focus on the mental health of the LGBTQ community, especially the you...

Participants walk during the 2023 Utah Pride Parade in downtown Salt Lake City on June 4, 2023. (Ryan Sun/Deseret News)

(Ryan Sun/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Almost half of LGBTQ children, including Utah LGBTQ children, have thought about suicide. That’s a statistic Jessica Holzbauer, a licensed clinical social worker and Kidstar Program manager at Huntsman Mental Health Institute, shared on Utah’s Morning News on KSL NewsRadio.

“One in four have actually attempted suicide,” she continued. “So, this is a mental health issue that is pervasive in our community.”

Pride Month celebrates LGBTQ people and culture.

“Pride month reminds us that it’s important to create safe places for LGBTQ youth, in particular, to feel welcome, validated and supported,” Holzbauer explained.

She also suggested that “pride doesn’t end at the end of June. Pride month is a reminder for us about the importance of having safe and inclusive spaces, but it needs to extend beyond the month of June.”

Creating safe and inclusive spaces is part of what Holzbauer calls being “a good ally.”

What does it mean to be a good ally?

Holzbauer says to be a good ally is to signal that we are safe people. And that can be done by validating the experience of the LGBTQ community.

“It’s really a broad umbrella” Holzbauer explained. “We can speak up when we hear someone make a joke that isn’t funny. We can use people’s preferred pronouns. We can ask with curiosity about people’s preferred identities without showing judgment.”

For example, she says that when she sees someone wearing a pin that includes their pronouns, she says something like: “That’s really neat that your organization includes your pronouns on your nametag.”

She also suggests wearing a button at work that says, “Everyone is welcome here,” or demonstrating allyship by having a flag on your desk.

Holzbauer also suggested advocating for systemic change, i.e. advocating that when people speak in meetings, they say their pronouns before they speak so that no one has to ask.

Why are correct pronouns so important?

“It’s a real signal of allyship to share your pronouns,” Holzbauer said. “We know that when we use correct pronouns for LGBTQ+ youth, there is a 60% decrease in thoughts of suicide.” 

“It’s okay if you don’t get it right,” she added. “You don’t need to fall over yourself apologizing. You just need to acknowledge, ‘Oops. I didn’t get that right.’ Correct it, and move on.”

What can parents do?

Feelings of acceptance are one of the biggest issues that LGBTQ kids face.

“One of the primary sources of stress for LGBTQ kids is how their families will react,” Holzbauer explained. “So, having families react in a way that is supportive and validating is crucial to maintain their children’s mental health.”

She says there’s a responsibility for all adults in this

“Whether you are a teacher or youth group leader or coach, it is crucial that the adults in kids’ lives are supportive and validating.”

Any parent, concerned community member or young person is invited to contact the Huntsman Mental Health Institute for help at 801-583-2500 or go to its website. People can also call the crisis hotline at 988 and download the Safe UT app.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call 988, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline or the Huntsman Mental Health Institute (1-801-583-2500).

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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Utah LGBTQ community highlights mental health during Pride Month