This Mental Health Matters blog was written by Natalie Smith, LISW-S, CTP, Child and Family Program Director at Ravenwood Health.

To participate in further discussion on the topics raised in this blog, attend the Geauga SOGI topical discussion group (see flyer at bottom of this post) event via zoom on January 13, 7 p.m. Learn more and register here now.

As a licensed social worker, one of the core values that informs my profession is, “dignity and worth of person.” This means that social workers treat each person in a caring and respectful fashion, mindful of individual differences and cultural and ethnic diversity. This is a professional value that I take very seriously and informs my decision to be an ally to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) individuals. I know how serious the impact of LGBT discrimination can be.

Did you know?

· LGBTQ+ youth are 3 times more likely to be sanctioned in high school

· 9% report being disciplined simply for identifying as LGBTQ+

· LGBTQ+ youth are up to 3 times more likely to be involved in the juvenile system as a result of school discipline

· Only 26% of LGBTQ+ youth report feeling safe in their classroom

· 92% of LGBTQ+ youth hear negative messages about being LGBTQ+ from school, their peers, or the internet

· 86% of LGBTQ+ youth reported being harassed or assaulted at school

· LGBTQ+ youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth

· LGBTQ+ youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth

· Of all the suicide attempts made by youth, LGBTQ+ youth suicide attempts were almost five times as likely to require medical treatment than those of heterosexual youth

· In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt.

· 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25

· LGBTQ+ youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGBTQ+ peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection

· 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9–12) seriously considered suicide in the past year

· Each episode of LGBTQ+ victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average

I am not sure if those statistics give you pause for thought, but they do me. I choose to be an ally because I can be a voice in the LGBTQ+ movement. Allies support people in the coming-out process. They also help others understand the importance of equality, fairness, and acceptance.

In order to be an ally, you just have to practice a few simple things:
First, be a listener.
Second, be willing to talk.
Third, face your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
And, lastly, believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.

I am currently reading Just A Mom by Betty Degeneres.