Pride Flag. (Contributed)

Pride Flag. (Contributed)

Study shines light on what makes LGBTQ+ youth feel safe in a community

The study goes beyond looking at school or family supports

  • Aug. 4, 2020 5:00 p.m.

By Moira Wyton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee

Having a visibly supportive and inclusive community can drastically reduce the number of LGBTQ2S+ youth who have suicidal thoughts or consider self-harm, a new B.C.-based study suggests.

And support can look like everything from a rainbow sticker in a coffee shop window to a community space for LGBTQ2S+ youth to gather after school.

“Ultimately what we found was that community resources and supports actually do contribute to reducing, or at least to lower odds for suicidal thoughts, among LGBTQ girls,” said Elizabeth Saewyc, director of the University of British Columbia school of nursing and executive director of the Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre.

“And when you’ve got the signs and symbols that say, ‘Hey, we support these human rights, we see you, we support you, we celebrate you, you matter to us,’ then that’s really an important way of sending signals to young people and help them feel safe and included.”

Data from the Adolescent Health Survey shows that 38 per cent of adolescent queer girls and 34 per cent of boys had had suicidal thoughts in the last 12 months, with nearly half of all queer girls reporting self-harm practices in that time frame.

The study goes beyond looking at school or family supports and considers how and why youth feel supported in their broader communities in B.C. to identify ways communities can improve queer youth mental health.

Saewyc, the lead author of the study, asked youth where they feel welcome and included, and the research team spent hours walking with them to learn about why these spaces and symbols mattered.

They then used a Google search to map the resources available in 274 communities across B.C., based on the way youth may seek support or research inclusive spaces.

And much of what youth came up with hadn’t previously appeared in the expert literature.

“Young people were talking about pride stickers and rainbow flags in cafes and restaurants and messages in faith communities, and they also talked about anti-bullying events or Trans Day of Remembrance events and Pride parades,” said Saewyc. “Hearing those, in addition to youth groups and drop-in programs and LGBTQ friendly services, helped us understand a broad array of different kinds of support in communities.”

ALSO READ: Controversy over MLAs buying ads in B.C. magazine that opposes trans rights

Elizabeth Saewyc: ‘Young people were talking about pride stickers and rainbow flags in cafes and restaurants and messages in faith communities, and they also talked about anti-bullying events or Trans Day of Remembrance events and Pride parades.’

How progressively a community votes also matters.

Girls in communities that voted 70 per cent NDP in the 2013 provincial election were less than half as likely to have suicidal thoughts as those in communities where very few did.

“If you’re looking at political climate as a proxy for progressive, supportive climates, then you need to look at which parties actually have the kind of platform or have been calling for the kind of supports that contribute to well-being for LGBTQ youth,” said Saewyc.

But the availability of services or supports did not have as significant an effect in reducing self-harm among queer boys, which Saewyc says suggests they may need different supports. As well, supports for girls may reduce the impact of both gender and sexuality-based stressors, providing a greater overall gain in their well-being.

But Saewyc stressed that supporting youth isn’t just about votes and rainbow crosswalks.

“It’s not enough to say, `Oh, well, we just have to put a bunch of rainbow flags around our city and we’ll be fine,”’ she said. “You actually have to do the work to make sure that people are supportive and know how to be inclusive and supportive and encouraging of young people.”

She hopes the study, a collaboration with American researchers, will help support communities to take actions of all kinds to support queer youth, knowing that every small thing makes a difference.

“We’ve also ended up coming up with a bit of a blueprint of all these different strategies that a community can consider,” said Saewyc.

“So the next time a small community is thinking, `Gee, should we do a rainbow crosswalk?,’ rather than saying, `Well, we don’t think it’s gonna hurt,’ we’ve got evidence that suggests as part of the broader community, it contributes to helping LGBTQ youth feel safer and included.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

LGBTQ

Just Posted

Talia McKay of Williams Lake is a burn survivor who remains grateful for the support she received from the Burn Fund (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
’You have to allow yourself the grace to heal’: B.C. burn survivor reflects on her recovery

Learning how to stand straight and walk again was a feat said Williams Lake resident Talia McKay

As a former reporter and editor at the Tribune, Diana French carries on sharing her ideas through her weekly column. (Photo submitted)
FRENCH CONNECTION: Worth taking another look at hemp for paper production

Ninety years after being deemed illegal, few are afraid of marijauna

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)
RANCH MUSINGS: Milking cows and strangers on the premises

Cows in a milking barn may get upset if a stranger comes

Lake City Secondary School Grade 12 students Haroop Sandhu, from left, Amrit Binning and Cleary Manning are members of the school’s horticulture club. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
LCSS horticulture club a growing success

Aspiring gardeners at a Williams Lake secondary school are earning scholarship dollars… Continue reading

Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Tribune.
FOREST INK: Plenty of changes happening in forest industry

A new process produces a biodegradable plastic-like product from wood waste powder

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

Most Read