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    June 11, 2024

    It’s Pride Month… How Are Youth Experiencing It In Your Halls?

    The Battle for Mental Health

    The mental health condition of our students is a valid ongoing concern for any parent, teacher, or administrator. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide ranks as the second leading cause of death among kids ages 10 to 14. It is also the third most prevalent cause of death for those aged 15-24. Further, students at every grade level have reported that depression, stress, and anxiety are their primary barriers to learning.

    This situation is even worse when we look at the well-being of marginalized populations. According to one survey, 42% of youth who are navigating issues related to sexual or gender identity have experienced serious suicide ideation. Nearly half of those surveyed also reported a lack of access to vital mental health care services.

    Adolescents who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria often face unique challenges. These include tensions in the home, heightened confusion over how to approach dating, self-hatred, shame, homelessness, and even physical violence. Cultural norms related to orientation and gender have changed dramatically over the last several years, but all of these related problematic issues continue to persist. 

    There are many reasons for this ongoing dilemma, which social scientists continue to study. Unfortunately, treating these mental and emotional health issues with minorities of any kind can be very complex. It requires great wisdom, empathy, and often some training.

    Pride Hits Different For Different Children

    Celebrations like Pride Month can affect students in a variety of ways. For some, Pride month can feel like a time for much joy and celebration. For other youngsters, the increased attention on LGBTQ+ issues can actually increase pressure on their lives. Public discourse on the subject sometimes forces them to more deeply consider who they are and how they want to show up in their communities... Not all kids feel adequately prepared for this.

    Adolescents in general are often under-developed in knowing how to practice self-awareness and how to articulate themselves. Non-conforming youth may especially wrestle with how much they want to share their inner thoughts and feelings with the world around them. This is all the harder when they are learning to navigate life with peer pressure and in the middle of divisive culture wars. These varied factors can cause tension, making students feel they need to be further along than they actually are in their personal growth processes.

    Tactics to Offer Better Support

    It is highly important that we learn to empathize with and tactfully support the children around us who are facing these realities. A few tactics we can take are as follows:

    • Listen sincerely: Create opportunities for open conversations. Ask youth who identify as gay or queer about their unique experiences and struggles. Offer respect, build trust, and convey understanding. 

    Make space for everyone to talk about things like their basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, community), their mental health stressors, any suicidal ideation, the condition of their households, and experiences with bullying.

    • Foster peer relationships: Encourage all students to reach out to and purposefully bond with people who they would not be inclined to relate with on their own. This helps build stronger social bonds and a greater sense of collective belonging. It also offsets opportunities for harmful discrimination.

    • Protect and encourage diversity: Address even the slightest forms of physical aggression, harassment, and marginalization. Further, look for appropriate, creative ways to intentionally expose youth to a diversity of stories, viewpoints, and life experiences. Kids and teens need to see examples of others respecting one another across lines of difference.

    • Provide access to information: Ensure all students know how to reach organizations and literature that are vital for their own mental health journey. Do not leave it up to them to figure out where to turn for reliable options.

    HELPme's State of the Art Tools

    Our HELPme platform is a powerful tool available to assist youth, including vulnerable LGBTQ+ students. HELPme provides support and resources to students, families, and staff – enabling critical support and responses through both anonymous tips and help request features. This makes asking for assistance with any personal issues much easier and more streamlined.

    For instance, a unique feature of this is our Building Neuro-Resilience™ curriculum. This online training provides information about trauma, stress, and the brain to build both regulation skills and better self-understanding. This kind of training is key for any student who is looking to find healthy ways to cope with the pressures of their life circumstances.

    Further, students and staff can connect directly to trained crisis counselors from HELPme. Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7, high-quality anonymous text-based mental health support and crisis intervention volunteers to support individuals in their moments of need.

    For those who need less immediate help, HELPme users have access to teletherapy services. This provides scheduled access to a trustworthy, licensed therapist through a seamless online experience.

    ​Using the Get Help feature, students, parents, and staff can also directly connect with local-based contacts for specific needs. These resources are customizable to every district’s unique needs and sources. This feature allows users to find assistance for their everyday lives (access to food, transportation, clothing, shelter, or medical needs) or their mental health (addressing bullying, anxiety, or domestic violence). Help is literally only a click away!

    A Better Tomorrow For Everyone

    The HELPme platform has been proven to reach youth effectively and empower them with effective plans in response to the threatening challenges they face. We are proud to say the tool has aided with over 200,000 interventions already. Our vision is that the tool will serve to create a safer, more inclusive, more resilient world for every child. 

    During Pride Month, let’s be intentional about the type of environments we are building together. Our goal is that no one is left out or neglected. With the right intentional approaches, and with technology like HELPme, we hope more schools can become communities where all youth feel sincerely heard, valued, protected, and empowered to thrive.

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