Sunday, April 29, 2018

Are Your LGBT Kids Mentally Healthy?


                      What Parents Can Do To Ensure They Are


May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Do you realize that research shows that LGBT individuals are three times more likely to experience a mental health condition?  No wonder as they face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination and the denial of their civil and human rights.  Discrimination against LGBT persons has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse and suicide.

However, before you throw your hands up in the air and accept that you can not do anything to buffer your children, consider these options, all intended to support your children:

Research from The Family Project at San Francisco State demonstrates that a family’s acceptance of their LGBT’s children’s sexual orientation has much to do with their children’s mental health and personal safety.  It protects against Suicide, Depression, and Substance Abuse and predicts better health and self-esteem.

For family acceptance:

You can order helpful family education booklets such as “Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children” by Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., ACSW from the Family Project. https://familyproject.sfsu.edu/, a research, intervention, education, and policy initiative that works to prevent health risks for LGBT children and youth.

Some parents have difficulty accepting their LGBT children’s sexual orientation due to lack of education, religious dictates, and society’s stigma.  Suggestions from other parents, LGBT adults, and a psychiatrist who happens to be gay can help you attain unconditional acceptance of their LGBT child.  The book When Your Child is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, 2016) can help a parent resolve issues so they can love their LGBT child without reservation.

In terms of health, it is reported that more than one in five LGBT individuals report withholding information about their sexual practices from the doctor or another health care professional.   Over thirty percent of transgender individuals stated that they postponed or avoided medical care when they were sick or injured.  Approximately eight percent of LGB individuals and nearly twenty-seven percent of transgender individuals report being denied health care outright.

For health care:

Consult GLBT-friendly doctors:  http://www.glma.org/index
There is a fairly new app for this search: http://www.newnownext.com/qspaces-app-lgbt-doctors/03/2017/

As LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts, and engage in self-harm, especially if they keep their sexuality hidden, there is an LGBT suicide Hotline: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/1-866-488-7386.  Far worse,  the suicide ideation of transsexuals is estimated at thirty-eight to as high as 65 percent.  The Trans Lifeline:  https://www.translifeline.org./1-877-565-8860.

These are just some of the things as a parent you can reference so your child is not at risk for mental and physical health problems.  You can provide your child with the comfort and stability that are crucial in leading to a positive outcome.  Let your home be a safe haven against bullying and stigma.  Send a message to your LGBT child that you are unequivocally on his side.  The statistics of mental health problems for the LGBT population is already staggering.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

But We Only Did It Once"



I remember seeing this striking headline for a Planned Parenthood ad at New York’s One Club for Art & Copy in 1979.  The print advertisement won a Gold Award.

Fast forward to 2018.  Kids are having sex younger and some self-identify as LGBT before they even get to high school. Yet their sexual practices seem just as uninformed and perhaps tinged with feelings of immortality as in 1979.

All it takes is one time for youth to acquire an infection, STD or HIV.  Despite that reality, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released staggering statistics proving that more has to be done to educate youth.  Witness:

More than 1 in 5 new HIV infections are young people between 13 and 24 years old.
Youth with HIV are least likely to be linked to care of any group.
Only 10% of high school students have been tested for H.I.V.
Nearly half (43%) of all sexually active high school students didn’t use a condom the last time.

It’s not just high school.  The Human Rights Campaign just released a new comprehensive guide for college administrators, staff, and students for better student health and wellbeing. This guide coincides with National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD), April 10, whose mission is to increase sensitivity about HIV/AIDS and encourage young people to adopt safer sex and lifestyle practices that include getting tested.

College youth need this important information as well because:

80% of new diagnoses occur in people between the ages of 20 and 24.
51% of young people living with HIV do not know their status.
As a group, college-age youth engage in high-risk sexual behavior after using drugs and alcohol, impairing their judgment.

Some challenges for prevention of HIV & AIDS include:

Inadequate sex education.  School could be ensuring that health curricula or materials use language and terminology appropriate for LGBT population.  HIV, STD and pregnancy prevention information should be relevant to LGBT youth, not just heterosexual youth.
The GLSEN 2013 National School Climate Survey found that fewer than 5% of LGBT students had health classes that included positive representations of LGBT-related topics.  Among Millenials surveyed in 2015, only 12% said their sex classes covered same-sex relationships.
Nevertheless, according to the CDC, between 2000 and 2014, the percentage of schools in which students are required to receive instruction on HIV prevention decreased from 64 percent to 41 percent.

Despite the unavailability of LGBT-inclusive sex education, 85% of parents surveyed by the Human Rights Campaign supported discussion of sexual orientation as part of sex education in the high school and 78% of parents of middle schoolers wanted LGBT-inclusive sexual education.

Whether schools are legally barred from teaching more inclusive sex ed. or simply ignore the needs of their students, parents need to pick up the slack and educate their own kids.

Parents should instruct their children about safe sex, the facts about STDs, including HIV and AIDS, the dangers of risky sex after too much alcohol and/or drugs.  Youth have the right to know where to facilitate access to community-based providers who have experience providing health services, including HIV/STD testing and counseling social and psychological services to LGBT youth.

As most youth get their sexual information from peers, mostly faulty, be sure to give your child, whether LGBT or cisgender, knowledge that he can use for his own wellbeing.

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