TORONTO, June 28, 2012 /CNW/ - "Today I took a step to being proud of who I am. I made a step at coming out. I live in a small town and there isn't much GLBT support here...and homophobia is rampant, but I told my Best Friend a few hours ago who says it doesn't change our friendship. I am so glad. While I still have a long way to go with telling my parents and all that...I now have someone I can talk to. It was hard to do."
- Actual post at kidshelpphone.ca
Homophobia remains a prominent issue. There is nothing about being gay that inherently puts people at risk, but rather society's reactions towards people who identify as non-heterosexual.
Ongoing media attention around anti-gay bullying; awareness campaigns like Love is Louder and It Gets Better; and Ontario's recently-passed Bill 13 have all done a lot to increase discussions about LGBTQ youth and the struggles they face.
Questioning one's sexual orientation is common for young people, but the first time youth recognize these feelings can be confusing.
"That's one of the times when these youth are at a higher risk of mental health issues such as depression and self-injury, self-hatred, and suicide," says Alain Johnson, Clinical Director, Kids Help Phone. "These young people might fear what will happen and how people will react. They might feel they don't know who they are anymore, or understand what is happening to them. It may be against their culture, or against everything they've learned. Some may deny their feelings, or even become homophobic."
The other time LGBTQ youth are most vulnerable is when they decide to come out, as this can be a significant stressor and can increase their risk for experiencing mental health challenges as well as abuse and harassment. Young people might see coming out as a new beginning in their lives, but things may not always go as planned. If the reactions of friends and family end in rejection or violence, it can be devastating.
"The message LGBTQ youth often hear about coming out is that it will feel so much better after they've done it, that there will be some relief," Johnson says. "But it doesn't always happen that way. What happens after depends a lot on who they come out to, what the reaction is, and what kind of community they live in. In more homogenous communities, homophobia is rampant, so you need a safety plan in case it doesn't go the way you expect. We can help young people develop a plan that meets their needs."
When youth are at either of these vulnerable points, Kids Help Phone encourages them to reach out for help by calling 1-800-668-6868 or visiting kidshelpphone.ca.
Why we want to talk about this
- Kids Help Phone is often the only 24-hour, confidential, professional counselling service available in English and French to LGBTQ youth from anywhere in Canada.
- Kids Help Phone's professional counsellors are all trained professionals who are highly skilled in supporting LGBTQ youth. They can also help refer youth for peer-to-peer counselling where local agencies are available.
- Kids Help Phone's kids' website features a quiz called True Colours, where kids can test their knowledge and learn something new about gender identity and sexual health issues facing youth today.
- LGBTQ youth are approximately three times more likely to attempt suicide than other youth.
- A 2011 nation survey on homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Canadian schools found 1 in 5 LGBTQ students reported physical harassment or assault, and 64% said they felt unsafe at school.
- Sexuality accounts for about 9% of the contacts Kids Help Phone counsellors receive, and include questions about gender Identity, sexual orientation and inequity and discrimination, among others.
- Studies show that 10% of secondary school adolescents reported being unsure of their sexual orientation.
What our experts are saying
"Kids Help Phone is there for kids who are questioning," says Alain Johnson, Clinical Director, French Language Services, Kids Help Phone. "They might have additional reasons to call us because they're experiencing discrimination, or struggling with the assumption that everyone is straight until proven otherwise. Whatever the reason, we want them to know that if they're having a rough moment, Kids Help Phone is always there to help them get through it."
About Kids Help Phone
Since 1989, Kids Help Phone has been Canada's leading online and phone counselling service for youth. It's free, it's anonymous and confidential, and it's available any time of the day or night, 365 days a year in English and in French. Professional counsellors support the mental health and well-being of young people, ages five to 20, by providing one-on-one counselling, information and referral. As a community-based national charity, Kids Help Phone receives no core government funding and relies on community and corporate support to fund its essential and vital service.