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August 24, 2023
Nurturing Queer Youth Mental Health: The Vital Role of Community Care

Queer youth, as a marginalized and diverse group, face unique challenges in their journey toward self-discovery, acceptance, and mental well-being.

Queer youth, as a marginalized and diverse group, face unique challenges in their journey toward self-discovery, acceptance, and well-being. Community struggles can lead to heightened rates of mental health issues, making it crucial to address our needs holistically. While professional support is essential, the role of community care in fostering the mental health of queer youth cannot be underestimated. This blog delves into my challenges as a queer youth, highlights the importance of community care in my mental health journey, and offers insights into how inclusive and supportive communities can make a lasting impact.

Written By: Cyn Macias-Gomez

Some of the challenges I faced as a queer youth are enumerated below

  1. Identity Exploration: Queer youth often grapple with questions surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, leading to confusion, isolation, and mental distress. 

This looked like relying on self-harm to get through the loneliest times of being in the closet. Once I was out to friends, I found that their company helped my anxiety and sense of isolation. 

  1. Bullying and Discrimination: Experiencing bullying, discrimination, and microaggressions due to their LGBTQ+ status can severely affect mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. 

In my experience, this was most evident on one of my walks home in high school when I was called “a dirty dyke” and afterward felt unsafe on my walks home from then on.

  1. Family Rejection: Family rejection or lack of acceptance can result in feelings of abandonment and isolation, contributing to various mental health issues.

  1. Internalized Homophobia and Transphobia: Internalizing societal prejudices can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and self-hatred, further affecting mental well-being. 

This is something I still grapple with today; it’s something that’s extremely hard to combat in a society that places you under threat and surveillance. Constant negative societal attention on your identity has a lasting impact because you repeatedly hear that you are without a place in society. 

  1. Lack of Representation: A dearth of positive role models and representation in media and society can hinder the development of a strong sense of self-worth and belonging. 

While growing up, there was hardly any media on queer or trans youth, and this really made me feel that we didn’t exist. Once I started finding creators on YouTube with similar identities, I didn’t feel as alone or odd for feeling like I wasn’t like those around me. 

Additionally, the importance of community care provides a multitude of benefits:

  1. Validation and Belonging: Inclusive communities provide a safe space where queer youth can find validation, a sense of belonging, and connections with peers who understand their experiences.

  1. Peer Support: Peer support is crucial for queer youth to share their stories, seek advice, and gain insights from those who have navigated similar challenges. 

For me, this looked like getting involved in my high school GSA and being amongst other folks in my high school navigating similar struggles. Our club meetings became where I felt safest and most understood. 

  1. Reducing Stigma: Community care helps break down mental health stigma within the LGBTQ+ community, encouraging open conversations and seeking help when needed.

  1. Coping Strategies: Community care equips queer youth with coping strategies and resilience-building skills, enabling them to navigate societal challenges more effectively. 

This has been highly essential to understanding the world we’re navigating and coping with the realities of exclusion and violence in the ways we experience daily. 

  1. Empowerment: By participating in community activities and advocacy, queer youth can find a sense of purpose and empowerment that positively impacts their mental well-being.

Once I could be in communities where I felt safe to explore who I was and my passions, I was extremely empowered to explore what I wanted to do to take care of my community. This foundation has led me to the work I do today, advocating for my communities’ wellness and by taking up space and organizing for a brighter future. 

Lastly, creating supportive communities can quite literally save the lives of young queer folks; they provide:

  1. Safe Spaces: Establish safe spaces where queer youth can express themselves without fear of judgment or discrimination. 

My high school GSA advisors were the most essential folks on my campus to me; I knew that I could go to them for any support I needed. I felt that they offered a sense of safety by being tied to the queer community and being members of the campus community; they were extremely helpful and ultimately helped me get through those four years. 

  1. Access to Resources: Ensure access to mental health resources, counseling, and support groups that are specifically tailored to the needs of queer youth. 

Throughout most of my high school years, I was too scared to reach out for help. I knew that I was struggling with depression, disordered eating, and self-harm, but I didn’t know what help existed for me. Coming from a working-class family, I knew that not all the resources were available to me, and I had to be cognizant of the expense it would be for my family to get help. On campus, I could find various coping skills and sometimes the counseling that was extremely needed. 

  1. Advocacy and Visibility: Encourage visibility through events, campaigns, and initiatives celebrating LGBTQ+ identities, thereby challenging stereotypes and fostering acceptance. 

I have been organizing days of action against bullying or violence for queer folks for the last couple of years, and meeting the folks that connect with the events or campaigns really gave me the strength to keep fighting for our community. We have been deeply harmed and deeply connected in struggle and joy—being visible and being together makes all the difference. 

To conclude, queer youth mental health requires a multifaceted approach that goes beyond clinical interventions. Community care plays a vital role in nurturing the well-being of LGBTQ+ youth, offering them a sense of belonging, empowerment, and resilience. By creating inclusive and supportive communities, society can contribute to the mental health and overall happiness of queer youth, ensuring that they can thrive in a world that values and celebrates their unique identity.

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