During the Conference on LGBT Suicide Risk and Prevention at the San Francisco State University, the component that struck me most (and made me want to make this a 2 part blog) was the work being done by the Family Acceptance Project around LGBT youth’s families and faith communities to increase support for LGBT youth and decrease the various problems that LGBT youth face: family and community rejection, depression, homelessness, substance abuse, STDs and suicidal thoughts and attempts. Caitlin Ryan, Project Director of the Family Acceptance Project, spoke at length about the issues the project tackles.
The theme that Caitlin pointed out that was, to me, the greatest take-away was the need to change the paradigm of the way LGBT activists and service providers think of the family in a social context. Historically, families were excluded from programmatic frameworks because of unsupportive or toxic relationships with LGBT young adults; the norm was to build an individuals self-acceptance outside of the need of a families acceptance. But with the emergence of an LGBT youth population, in part due to access to information, positive representation of LGBT people in the media, changes in public perception and increases in support programs for LGBT youth, excluding the family is no longer an appropriate option.
The Family Acceptance Project works at the systems level and at the community level with families, providers and faith communities to outline what are truly their family values: caring for, and creating supportive environments for their adolescents, regardless of their LGBT status. Identifying, and educating communities about how family rejection leads to negative health and mental health outcomes and how family acceptance helps protect against risk and promotes their LGBT adolescents’ well-being is a core component of the Family Acceptance Project’s prevention and intervention work.
While the Projects work in the Mormon community has been highlighted in the media, the Family Acceptance Project has worked across Christian faiths, and with Muslim and Jewish families with LGBT children and is currently working to develop specific research-based “Best Practice” resources for families from other faith backgrounds. Family acceptance is an integral part of ensuring healthy adolescents grow into healthy adults, and working with their faith is central to this work.
The Family Acceptance Project has produced this press release to spread the word about their Utah-Based program which addresses the risk for suicide and rapidly increasing reports of homelessness among Utah LGBT Youth.
Click “LGBT Suicide Prevention (Part 1 of 2)” to read the prior segment.