Honolulu (KHON2) – The Hawaii State Department of Health has created safe spaces for LGBTQ youth through its Child & Adolescent Mental Health Division.
“Creating a safe space is important because despite the broad changes that have been made legally, individuals in the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Questioning) community continue to be harmed by discrimination, prejudice, homophobia and transphobia,” says Kimberly Allen, Practice Development Specialist and Safe Spaces Committee Chair. “These stressors cause LGBTQ youth in Hawaii numerous health and mental health disparities such as much higher risk of suicidality, depression, and substance use.”
The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that over 10% of the high school youth in Hawaii identify as LGBTQ but LGBTQ youth are less likely to seek services.
When the safe spaces committee formed in 2013, one of the first changes was to forms to include gender diversity. Since then, the committee advocated for and got a law passed so that young people ages 14 and up can seek outpatient mental health services without having to get their parent or guardian to consent. You can get connected by registering for webinars or access the recordings online.
People can support LGBTQ youth by being an affirming, safe person to talk to. Allen says affirmation can be provided in many ways: 1) using gender neutral language and not making assumptions about a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, such as instead of asking if the youth has a boyfriend or girlfriend, ask if they are dating anyone 2) calling-out prejudice and discrimination when you witness it, like if you hear someone make a homophobic remark, tell them “That language is not okay” 3) listening without judgment, 4) advocating for policy and legislative changes to enhance equity for the LGBTQ community, 5) giving LGBTQ people a voice to tell you what they need – knowing when to make space vs. take space 6) learning more about LGBTQ people and their contributions to society.