Goal Statement: If we can create better programming to support LGBTQIA+ teens in Utah, we can decrease the suicide rate and the rates of depression and anxiety in this population.
Due to the unusually high rate of suicide among LGBTQIA+ teens in Utah (The Trevor Project, 2022), there is clearly a need for improvement in the quality and availability of programming that supports that population. Because teens go through so much emotional upheaval during their transition to adulthood (MacMillan & Copher, 2005), they are particularly vulnerable to the discrimination many of them face when exploring their sexuality. Keeping in mind their need for positive role models, this portfolio suggests a prevention program that provides at-risk teens opportunities to learn from and with others who share similar experiences (Roach, 2018). Advocacy and diversity/ethical considerations are discussed, as well as some specific strategies that can be employed to support the implementation of this program. Overall, the theme of the portfolio is to suggest that LGBTQIA+ teens will benefit greatly from community programs that affirm their identity and provide safe spaces where they can express themselves without fear or judgment from others.
Supporting LGBTQIA+ teens is essential for fostering an inclusive and accepting community. In this section, I will introduce some specific action steps that could make up the parts of the greater prevention program I will propose in this portfolio. First, I propose that a series of LGBTQIA+ youth support groups be established. This will create a safe and confidential space where teens can share their experiences and feelings. These groups could hold regular meetings, workshops, and events to address specific concerns and build a supportive network.
Next, I propose that workshops and training sessions for community members be offered pertaining to raising awareness about issues pertaining to sexuality in adolescence. These workshops would be targeted toward teachers, parents, and local businesses. Possible topics might include understanding gender identity, pronoun usage, and ways to combat discrimination. I also propose that leaders of this prevention program make an effort to work with parents, educators, and local school boards to develop and implement LGBTQIA+ inclusive policies such as advocating for gender-neutral bathrooms, instituting anti-bullying policies, and encouraging the use of more inclusive sex education curricula.
Furthermore, I think it would be beneficial to hold LGBTQIA+-focused events and celebrations throughout the year within the community. Program leaders could coordinate with local businesses to sponsor and support these events to enhance visibility and acceptance.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I propose that we create LGBTQIA+ support networks within religious institutions. This will give at-risk teens a sense of spirituality that makes them feel safe and included, when they might otherwise feel excluded and judged. One thing that could support the development of such programs would be to work with a local LGBTQIA+ support center or organization, such as "Encircle” (Encircle, n.d.). This agency can provide expertise, resources, and experienced staff who can guide the community's efforts in supporting LGBTQIA+ teens. They can also help connect teens to counseling services, support groups, and other LGBTQIA+ community members who can serve as mentors and role models. Collaborating with such an agency ensures that the community's actions are well-informed, impactful, and aligned with the needs of LGBTQIA+ teens.