Sunday, September 23, 2012

Small Efforts Can Make a Big Difference

As you know from my last blog post, September is National Suicide Prevention Month. The leading national organization focused on suicide prevention, The Trevor Project ,  has launched a campaign to encourage conversation and support for the GLBTQ population. 

Celebrities Endorse “ Talk To Me “ Campaign

With Kevin McHale of Glee fame as a spokesperson, the “Talk to Me” Campaign  (see  has named September 27th as  Trevor Day.  Actor Daniel Radcliffe, “Harry Potter,” has since August 2009, given to The Trevor Lifeline,  the first and only nationwide 24 hour crisis and suicide prevention helpline for LGBTQ youth. Radcliffe is promoting the campaign on his Live Chat now on the website as well as You Tube and Google + pages.

How You Can Help. Participate on September 27th.

Here are five ways that you (or anyone) can show concern for a LGBTQ youth. They are:
  • ·      PLEDGE.  Take the “Talk To Me” pledge and promise to be a person that anyone can TALK to when they need a nonjudgmental person to listen.
  • ·      POST.  Write a message to a friend on a sticky note telling them you are there to talk if they ever need you, and leave it in a creative place: locker, lunch box, car. 
  • ·      WEAR. Wear and give out the Trevor gear in a “Talk To Me” kit that includes Tee Shirts.  It helps to spread the message.
  • ·      ACT.  Write a letter to the editor or to your local lawmaker to advocate for funding for inclusive suicide prevention training for school staff.
  • ·      SHARE. Add one of Talk To Me badges to your facebook/twitter profile image, on your website, page or blog.
  • ·      PHOTO GALLERY. You can also contribute to the #TrevorTalkToMe Photo Gallery.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Suicide Prevention Day Lives On

Last Monday, September 10th, was World Suicide Prevention Day, designated by the World Health Organization to promote world-wide commitment and initiatives to prevent suicide. On that day, the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention was published by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. The strategy details multiple goals for reducing suicide, such as integrating suicide prevention into health care policies and changing the way the public talks about suicide and suicide prevention.

Did you know that:

  • ·      The lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts in gay and bisexual male adolescents and adults was four times that of comparable heterosexual males.
  • ·      Lifetime suicide attempt rates among lesbian and bisexual females were almost twice those of heterosexual females.
  • ·      A 2009 study from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force found that 41% of adult respondents reported suicide attempts.

Why are these figures so high? It’s no wonder when The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reports that 9 out of 10 GLBT teens (and younger) are the victims of anti-gay bullying. As we all know, the effects of bullying are negative: low self-esteem, self-hatred, and suicide ideation (thinking about it).

How Does Your School Counteract Bullying?

As most bullying happens in school or on a phone or computer screen (cyberbullying) away from parental eyes, parents need to know what is happening at their child’s school to combat this invasive problem. Find out if your school has the following:
·      Gay-Straight Alliance
·      Safespace kits provided by GLSEN
·      Punishment for the Bully
·      Training about GLBT issues for teachers, counselors, administrators 

If your school doesn’t have these safeguards, contact GLSEN ( resources ) about instituting them. If GLSEN’s educational tools are not carried out in your child’s school, get in touch with the American Civil Liberties Union (

Safe Schools Improvement Act in Congress

There are only seven states (California, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington State) that have laws that specifically protect GLBT students from bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  Recently, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, legislation that would amend federal anti-bullying law to include sexual orientation and gender identity, was re-introduced in Congress. It would amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act to require schools that receive federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as race and religion.

Rehearse at Home About How to Deal with Bullying

Have a plan in place so your kids will be prepared for protecting themselves against bullies. See my blog posts: (http: // “Parental Homework for Anti-Bullying Defenses,” and “Anti-Bullying Tactics Begin at Home,” 9.21.11).                                                                               For more tips on how to deal with bullying, see http: // GLBT Teens "What GLBT Teens Can Do About Cyberbullying" and "What's the Deal With Anti-Gay Bullying and Harassment?"

Family Acceptance Biggest Buffer Against Suicide 
LGBT youth need to know that there are people out there to help them. If you suspect your child is depressed, seek out a mental health professional for her or him. (see my blog "Get Thee to a Shrink").  To familiarize yourself with the warning signs of suicide, see (http: )If he/she even talks about suicide, take your child seriously. 

Here are some Hotlines to help avoid another tragic death:

Trevor Lifeline of The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to GLBT community.  866-488-7386
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Get Thee to a Shrink

It is not uncommon for a parent of a recently out child, to want to take him/her to a mental health professional. Every parent wants his child to be happy, and you may be assuming because he/she is gay, that they have deep-rooted problems. While this may seem altruistic and responsible on your part, to your child, it may appear that he/she has a problem that needs “fixing.” 

While I have interviewed gay adults who found relief in talking to professionals, some were skeptical of their parents’ intentions. One gay man from Birmingham, Alabama was annoyed that his mother had arranged an appointment with her friend, a clinical social worker, in Washington, D.C. Luckily, the meeting went well, and the man was able to unburden his soul. The social worker allayed the parents’ fears that their gay son was unhappy. However, the office visit could have been disastrous.

Follow These Suggestions for a Better Experience with a Therapist:

To ensure a productive meeting for your child, you need to first explain to your child why you think it’s a good idea for him to go to a “talking doctor” so he doesn’t misconstrue your motives. Studies have shown that kids who reveal their sexual orientation to their parents want to hear immediately that they are loved unconditionally. Timing is everything. So, it’s not a good idea to bring up a visit to the “shrink” right away. 

How Do I find a GLB-Friendly Therapist?

The American Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists (http://www.                                                      has a referral services for GLBT patients looking for therapists.

Is it essential for a GLBT child to be in treatment with a GLBT therapist?

Not necessarily, but your child or daughter may be more comfortable and less guarded talking to a professional with the same orientation who knows what it’s like to be GLBT. Jonathan Tobkes, M.D., a Manhattan psychiatrist with a private practice, offers this advice: “It’s less important that the therapist be gay than if he has worked with gay teens and families. Look for a therapist who has specific training in child and adolescent health.”

Should I be in family therapy with my son’s or daughter’s psychiatrist? It may be better at first to have your own therapist if you are trying to work through your own feelings such as shame, loss, guilt, typical issues that straight parents face. You don’t want your child to know that you are suffering because of his revelation. 

However, Dr. Tobkes recommends, “that if there is significant conflict within the family unit itself, you begin family therapy with a neutral therapist who doesn’t work with any other family member and has no primary allegiance.”

Let Your Child Take the Lead

Remember that this is the therapist for your child and as such, you will not get much feedback from the professional due to patient confidentiality. Do your homework and speak to a therapist about his experience working with GLBT youth, “ but let your child have a say in selecting a therapist,” cautions Dr. Tobkes. “Chemistry is important.”

What to Watch Out For!

Any psychiatrist or psychologist who tells you or your child that homosexuality is a mental disorder.  The American Psychiatric Association declassified (removed) homosexuality as a mental disorder in its DSA (Diagnostic) Manual in 1973.

Any mental health professional who tells you he/she can convert your child from gay to straight. This is known as conversion or reparative therapy and although it is condemned by both the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations, it is still practiced. Studies haves shown that this type of therapy only sublimates the desire for the same sex, resulting in depression, shame for the GLBT participant. It doesn’t convert and is so ineffectual that the California State Assembly recently approved a groundbreaking ban on so-called ex-gay or reparative therapy aimed at minors. See my blog:( http:"Response to Jane Clementi's Article in New York Times, 8/25/12/ 8/29/12.)