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

Francina Mettes and Thomas Schouten with the 200-page document they submitted in December of 2018. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Dutch 94-year-old in Saanich earns permanent Canadian residency

Couple of 45 years to stay together in Cadboro Bay

Ron MacDonnell leans over the railing on Beacon Wharf Tuesday afternoon. The Town of City is currently looking into the future of the aging structure. It could make way for a concrete pontoon once part of the floating bridge over Hood Canal in Washington State. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney explores public-private partnership for iconic Beacon Wharf

Wharf committee recommends town invite pontoon company to submit proposal

Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, is shown during a news conference in Ottawa in 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
Isolating provinces is a bad idea, says Canadian Chamber of Commerce

National business organization calls for cohesive approach to COVID-19 measures

Victoria police are seeking home surveillance video and witnesses following a prowling incident in Esquimalt Jan. 20. (Black Press Media file photo)
Esquimalt prowler removes air conditioner, peers into person’s home

VicPD is seeking video footage, witnesses following Jan. 20 incident

SD62 bus driver Kerry Zado said it’s common to see drivers lose their patience and pass by his bus while he’s picking up students during the morning commute. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
School bus driver laments motorists who pass while red lights are flashing

All buses in Sooke School District outfitted with stop sign cameras

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New Duncan street signs will be in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional names in First Nations language

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

Most Read