The more I learn about health equity and equality it becomes obvious that people do not all share my beliefs. Read about the root of the PRIDE celebrations after the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. I will admit my naiveté and confess that I did not know and can hardly believe that homosexuality was a criminal offense in 1969 as was wearing “inappropriate gender” clothing.
While being LGBTQ+ is NOT a mental health condition or concern, LGBTQ+ individuals experience mental health struggles at higher rates than their straight and cisgender peers. . LGBTQ+ youth experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, substance use disorder, suicide risk, and health concerns. For example, 45 percent of LGBTQ+ youth reported seriously considering suicide during the past year compared to 20 percent of high school students in 2019 according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. This rate was cut in half when LGBTQ+ youth felt social support from their families. “LGBTQ+ individuals can be incredibly resilient and thrive in the face of adversity with the help of supportive families, peers, and communities. But the ultimate protective factor in LGBTQ+ mental health is removing these adversities altogether, which we can work to achieve through creating informed and affirming environments,” according to Mental Health America (MHA).
In recognition of Mental Health awareness month in May, I wrote Mental Health: You Can Make a Difference about the stigma people experience about mental health challenges. Now it is PRIDE awareness month, and we recognize that this stigma is magnified in the LGBTQ+ community. Stigma, discrimination, and even criminalization because of their identity are among the multitude of threats and barriers faced by LGBTQ+ young people identified in the Trevor Project 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health Strong social connections, access to mental health care, and support from a religious or social community acts as a protective factor in suicide prevention.
So how can we help as a church? The UCC Pride Month Call to Action written by Revs. Tracy Howe and Mike Schuenemeyer of Justice and Local Church Ministries and Andy Lang of the Open and Affirming Coalition calls us to advocacy and care. We can be allies to prevent bullying, educate ourselves and our communities, and to show our love and support. LGBTQ+ people are people, whether male or female, black, brown, or white, rich, or poor. We are all God’s people. Jesus loved and cared for the sick the lonely and the marginalized. We can too.
The UCC Has several resources to help:
Resources are being posted at ucc.org/trans
Our Whole Lives curriculum (OWL) Find out more, and to locate trainings go to https://www.sneucc.org/our-whole-lives
Open and Affirming Coalition United Church of Christ. Become an Open and Affirming congregation. Learn more about the ONA process at openandaffirming.org.
Go to SNEUCC for local ONA updates.
Debbie Ringen supports the Conference vision to make God’s love and justice real through wellness ministry at the Conference and local church level. In addition to providing resources, educational workshops, blogs and networking opportunities, she is...