This blog references mental health and suicide. If you or someone you know are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call or text 988, which is the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
Our Youth Mental Health Crisis blog discussed that suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals aged 5-24 in the United States. This is due to many things, like lack of access to care and the COVID-19 pandemic.
June is Pride Month. While many brands are changing their profile pictures to rainbow-themed logos and the DC Metro is covered in rainbows, there is still an influx of anti-LGBTQ+ laws being introduced and passed, and suicide rates among the community are higher than ever.
As a parent, it is understandable to be fearful for your child’s life if they are a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Now more than ever, LGBTQ+ youth need support they might not receive in school or elsewhere. As a parent, you may become the only supportive figure in their lives. It is vital that you become an advocate and ally for the LGBTQ+ community for your child.
The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is an organization whose mission is to end suicide among LGBTQ+ young people. It offers crisis support, education, research, and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community.
In the 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People, the Trevor Project surveyed 28,000 LGBTQ young people ages 13 to 24 in the United States. Of those surveyed, 41% seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, and 14% did attempt suicide in the past year. Suicide rates for LGBTQ+ youth rise every year as they face discrimination, violence, and laws that diminish their identity and self-worth.
Supporting Your LGBTQ+ Child
When talking with your child who may question their gender identity or sexuality, showing them that you are there for them no matter what they decide is essential. It is important to become knowledgeable about the challenges LGBTQ+ youth face, the correct language around LGBTQ+ youth (think pronouns and different identities) and look into finding mental health professionals specializing in LGBTQ+ youth.
Having discussions about well-known LGBTQ+ people in media can allow your child to talk about how they feel toward their sexuality and identity. Asking them about their preferred pronouns is also a great way to validate your child. Other family members or friends may not support your child as they come to terms with their identity. In those situations, it is vital to set boundaries and discuss with your child what they wish to do when it comes to those people. Do they wish to continue contact? Do they want space? How does this make them feel? Support your child in any way possible, even if it means making difficult decisions yourself.
Brightline, Foreign Service Benefit Plan’s partner specializing in adolescent behavioral health, features a blog for families wanting to discuss sexual orientation with their child. Brightline recommends asking open and curious questions, using gender-neutral language, and responding to injustice in the LGBTQ+ community. Brightline reminds parents always to check their biases and continue educating themselves no matter what. If you want to learn more about FSBP and Brightline, click here.
Finding resources when it comes to supporting your LGBTQ+ child can be overwhelming. Here are a few reliable sources that can help you.
Gender-Affirming Medical Care
Gender-affirming care “encompasses a range of social, psychological, behavioral, and medical interventions “designed to support and affirm an individual’s gender identity,” according to the World Health Organization. The FSBP recognizes that transgender, non-binary, and other gender-diverse members require health care delivered by healthcare providers with experience in gender-affirming health. FSBP provides care coordinators for complex conditions and can be reached at 800-593-2354. If you are an FSBP member, you and your dependent(s) can access gender-affirming care. Gender-affirming surgery provides a way to address gender dysmorphia and is covered as a member of FSBP. You can read more about what surgeries are covered here.
If you want more resources, AFSPA Talks covered LGBTQ+ youth in 2021. In that episode, COO Kyle Longton discusses LGBTQ+ youth with Alyssa Clayden from the Truman Group. Check out the episode to hear them cover everything from the coming out process for children to parents’ reactions to their children’s identities, gender dysphoria, and more.