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Proud Today, Proud Tomorrow, Proud Always*

It’s been said 2.4 million times (likely but a personal estimate) how difficult COVID-19 made the last year and a half. However, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people have faced unique adversities, worsening the impact of a global pandemic.

In its 2021 survey, The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ people ages 13-24, shed light on the challenges faced by nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth across the United States.

This survey provides evidence that LGBTQ youth met increased mental health disparities, discrimination, food insecurity, and rates of suicide.

Notably, findings included:

  • 70% of LGBTQ youth reported their mental health suffered during the pandemic.
  • 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and gender nonbinary (TGNB) youth.
  • 75% of LGBTQ youth reported that they had experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identify at least once in their lifetime.

However positively,

  • TGNB youth who reported having their pronouns respected by all members of their household attempted suicide at half the rate as those who conversely did not have their pronouns respected.
  • LBGTQ youth who had access to spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity reported lower rates of attempting suicide.
  • TGNB youth who were able to change their legal name and/or gender marker reported the lowest rates of attempting suicide.

After learning of the staggering difficulties LGBTQ individuals have with gaining access to mental health care, including the timely access to mental health assessments needed while transitioning, the team at Spectrum Health’s Southtowns Counseling Center decided to do something about it.

Starting this month, we are very proud to announce that we will now be conducting assessments and providing additional services to individuals seeking gender-affirming hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery.

This assessment process includes a comprehensive behavioral health assessment and referral letter to the individual’s chosen health care provider, if appropriate. Individuals may also decide to remain in services with clinic for ongoing support and treatment.

As an all-inclusive, trauma-informed agency, we feel that adding this service allows us to fill a gap in care with the goal of helping people live more hopeful, happy, and fulfilling lives.

Jessica Okoniewski

Clinical Director, Southtowns Counseling Center and LGBTQ Ally

*Dedicated to my best friend who donned a t-shirt with this quote magnificently proclaiming her pride. “Be part of a group that helped tilt the world just a tiny bit in the right way. Hardly noticeable true, but hardly was more than nothing. Hardly made all the difference in the world.”

-Ray Smith, The Magnolia That Bloomed Unseen

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