In recent years, studies have revealed alarming numbers when it comes to the susceptibility of LGBT youth to mental health issues. According to Statistics Canada, they face higher rates of anxiety, depression, suicide, self-harm and substance abuse than their heterosexual peers. However, there are organizations that aim to provide support for these individuals. PFLAG Canada is one them.
On average, 500 Canadian LGBT youth between the ages of 15 and 24 commit suicide every year. Although it is not yet clear how many of them identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer or two-spirited, statistics show that suicide is quite prevalent among the LGBT community. Founded in 1973, PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Gays and Lesbians) is one of the largest organizations providing support to this at-risk demographic.
Jeanne Manford first created a small support group after her son was physically attacked at a gay rights demonstration in New York. This small initiative to provide support for other parents of gay and lesbian children would eventually grow to encompass 500 chapters across the United States of America and 70 in Canada.
PFLAG provides help, information and resources for individuals dealing with LGBT issues. This support system is geared not only towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people but also towards their friends, family and peers.
Perhaps one of the most interesting services offered by PFLAG are the Chapter meetings which are held the last Tuesday of every month. They provide a safe space to openly discuss personal issues with others who may identify with similar struggles.
When it comes to promoting mental health among LGBT youth, there are a few key factors that can have a positive effect on mental wellness. Studies have shown that low levels of internalized homophobia can be fostered through community-building activities and personal associations. Furthermore, the support from family and friends which can be found in support groups such as those provided by PFLAG, also lower instances of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
For anyone coming to terms with homosexuality, albeit with themselves or someone they love, help is readily available at any PFLAG chapters.
For more information, please visit: http://www.pflagcanada.ca
By Leanne Ross
Translation by Léonie LeBoeuf