GrowWell Personal Clinician Stories: LGBTQIA

By: Cathy Piehl, MA, LMSW

GrowWell Personal Clinician Stories: Navigating Acceptance and Belonging for a LGBTQIA+ Individual

On June 12th, 2016, I sat with my son as the news of a horrific mass shooting in Orlando Florida at the Pulse Nightclub was broadcast.  My son is gay, and the targets of the shooting were LGBTQIA+ patrons.  In all, 49 people were murdered, 53 injured.  I was at a loss as to how to support my son at that moment.

Acceptance and belonging (feeling socially connected, supported, and respected) is one of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for healthy social development. Individuals who experience a strong sense of acceptance and belonging will have good self-confidence, make positive life choices, and build solid relationships with a significant other.  However, the opposite can be true if an individual experiences feelings of rejection and loneliness.  Rejection and loneliness can cause individuals to be filled with self-doubt, unable to make positive decisions, or any decisions, and lack the ability to form solid relationships with a significant other.

My family had provided my son with our love and acceptance when he told us of his orientation.  We are a close family, and I believe he knew we would be accepting. But the world has a way of providing feelings of rejection and loneliness to those who identify as LGBTQIA+.

According to Mental Health America:

  • As compared to people that identify as straight, LGBTQ individuals are 3 times more likely to experience a mental health condition.
  • LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts, and engage in self-harm, as compared to youths that are straight.
  • 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation.
  • An estimated 20-30% of LGBTQ individuals abuse substances, compared to about 9% of the general population. 25% of LGBT individuals abuse alcohol, compared to 5-10% of the general population.
  • 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.
  • LGBTQ youth are at more than double the risk of homelessness compared to non-LGBTQ peers.*

*(Voices of Youth Count)

When someone is beginning to accept they are gay, bisexual, nonbinary, and/or transgender, they can be faced with experiences of rejection from family, religion/faith, workplace, friends, neighbors, landlords, store clerks, teachers, elected officials,.. the list indeed goes on.  Acceptance and belonging becomes inconsistent in their lives.  We all have some experiences that creates feelings of rejection and loneliness; however, cisgender/heterosexual folks don’t normally have quite as many hidden land mines waiting around the corner of every aspect of their lives.

The current tensions in the world can worsen feelings of acceptance and belonging for many folks.  In this Pride month, we want to say to LGBTQIA+ folks we accept who you are, as you are. If you are cisgender/heterosexual, be an ally; be accepting, provide invitations of belonging. The world may be in crisis, but we as individuals can provide that acceptance and belonging that builds everyone up.

Below are some resources LBTQIA+ individuals may access for support.  And, of course, please reach out to Grow Wellness Group if you or a loved one need counseling. We are here for your therapeutic needs.

Youth-Outlook.orgProvides supportive social, educational, and recreational services to LGBTQ youth in DuPage and surrounding areas.

Trevor Lifeline – 866-488-7386 – National, around the clock crisis and suicide prevention hotline.

The Trevor Project – the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.

BlackLine – 1-877-565-8860 National 24-hour support crisis hotline, with text option, geared towards the Black, Black LGBTQI, Brown, Native and Muslim community

Trans Lifeline – 1-800-604-5841

360 Youth ServicesHomeless Support