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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Delta City Hall. (James Smith photo)
Harvie, Kruger to represent Delta on Metro Vancouver board

Delta reps to sit on 11 of 16 standing committees and task forces

Record-setting high jumper Emma de Boer, who lives in Cloverdale and attends Holy Cross Regional High School in Fleetwood, will train and study architecture at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) next fall. (submitted photo)
Surrey jumper on a high after recruitment by UPenn track team

High jumper Emma de Boer aims to leave Cloverdale for Philadelphia next fall

The White Birch proposal for a six-storey rental-only building at 1485 Fir St. was turned down by council on Monday night. (Contributed rendering)
White Birch developer feels ‘betrayed’ by City of White Rock council

Application for new rental building at 1485 Fir St. turned down by council

Surrey RCMP Gang Enforcement Team street check. (File photo)
Surrey RCMP gang enforcement team seizes five vehicles

This was over 13 days, as SGET continues to target gang activity in this city

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

RCMP officers wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 stand by. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
RCMP appeal for witnesses after hit-and-run leaves girl, 17, in critical condition

The Metro Vancouver teenager was found unconscious and critically injured after being hit: police

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Most Read