By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
The LGBTQ community is stronger today than at any time in its history. However, 2020 has brought unprecedented challenges to that community. Many members’ mental health is at risk in the present pandemic environment. Throw in the discrimination and prejudices that the LGBTQ community too often encounters and it is no surprise that the levels of self-harm and suicide attempts are on the rise. In this article, we present four self-harm prevention tips that we can all take on board in order to help and support our loved ones who are LGBTQ.
LGBTQ individuals are living in a world that, despite the progress made, is still heavily prejudiced against them. The discrimination that they face on a daily basis makes it very challenging for them to express their true selves. This often results in a lack of self-acceptance and the leading of a double life. As a loved one, you can go a long way toward helping your son, daughter, brother, or sister accept themself. It begins with your assurance to them of your full, unconditional love and support. Tell them that you respect the person they are on the inside (and mean it!).
Help your loved one to be their true self in public. Go out with them to provide them with support. We know that LGBTQ individuals face discrimination in seeking healthcare and other services. Be prepared to go with them as an advocate. Encourage your loved one to express themselves, even in the face of discrimination from people in positions of authority. If you detect discrimination, call it out!
Your loved one may have avoided health care services and community benefits that he or she has access to. Sit down with them and research what services they are eligible for and then make appointments with them to access those services. As mentioned, suggest that you go with them as their advocate.
Encourage your loved one to develop a personal safety plan. This is a resource that they can go to when they have feelings of self-harm or suicide. Here are some ideas to include in the plan:
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE
LGBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
Trevor Project: 866-488-7386
You can access an online Personal Safety Plan at the LGBT National Health center website.
Too often, self-harm is never discussed. Everyone knows that it is going on, but no one has the courage to address it. Communication can be a powerful tool in the fight against self harm. You need to be the person who steps up and discusses it with your at risk loved one. You may get denial or anger or refusal to engage. Don’t give up. Let your loved one know that you are not judging them but that you love them so much that you want to provide them with alternatives to self-harm. Here are a half dozen suggestions:
As a result of the discrimination and prejudices that they face on a daily basis, LGBTQ individuals encounter far more stressful situations than the general population. Help your loved one to cope with their stress in a productive way. Here are three stress reduction techniques:
During these unprecedented times, it is incumbent on all of us to support one another. Our LGBTQ brothers and sisters need our full, unconditional love, acceptance, and support right now in order to help them stay safe. Follow through on these tips to provide the support that your LGBTQ loved ones deserve and need.