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Stop Bullying: Mental Health Professionals Supporting LGBTQ Youth

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the NARBHA 50th Anniversary Conference for Health and Well-Being. It was a humbling honor to be asked to be a voice for the LGBTQ Community of Northern Arizona and not one I take lightly. I chose to use my limited time and opportunity to focus on the needs of LGBTQ Youth and the impact of bullying behaviors, particularly as it increases risk of suicidality in an already very vulnerable population. Below are eight ideas of how to increase safety for the LGBTQ youth in your own community. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but should be seen as a place to start making positive interventions and changes throughout agencies. Where you take it from there is up to you and your own advocacy endeavors as I encourage each of you to be ambassadors for change, health and well-being.

1. Send a message to all clients that you/your agency are/is inclusive by changing forms to be reflective of gender non-conformity and gender transition options

2. Send a message to all clients that you/your agency are/is inclusive by making LGBTQ lives visible in posters, art and signage throughout hallways, lobbies and offices

3. Be an advocate and an educator with colleagues and staff for inclusive and supportive use of language when discussing client needs/concerns and when interacting with clients

4. Do not tolerate abusive or derogatory statements made to or about LGBTQ youth by regularly redirecting colleagues and staff

5. Be mindful of lobby and hallway conversations that could be abusive or offensive - be aware and be present. Physically stand with LGBTQ youth to send a message that you support them and will not tolerate abuse toward them.

6. Be an Educator in your community, at schools, at community centers, at places of religious and spiritual gathering and any other venue in which human gather and therefore may experience bullying.

7. Teach, build and encourage skills related to self-worth, assertiveness and advocacy to your clients. Do NOT blame the victims. DO help build resiliency and an ability to survive and thrive.

8. Recognize that bullying breeds symptoms of depression and anxiety and can be experienced as trauma. Intervene within your scope of practice and make referrals where necessary.

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