A blog from Roxana Rodriguez, MPH, Executive Fellow, Well Being Trust
June marks a historic event in LGBTQ+ history when Black and Brown transgender women Marsha P. Johnson, Silvia Rivera, Miss Major, and others began the Stonewall riots. This spirit of activism in the face of discrimination is the heart and legacy of Pride Month. Carrying on this history means future generations will continue to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and wellness.
Recognizing the unique mental health challenges LGBTQ+ youth and young adults face, Well Being Trust in partnership with Active Minds and Young Invincibles recently released a new digital tool, Evokate: A Guide to Mental Health Action. This new tool was designed by and for young adults who are passionate about intersectional issues related to mental health and want to advocate for change. Our hope is that it will inspire other young people to join us in advocating at the intersection of LGBTQ+ mental health as well as racial justice and mental health, and equitable access to services.
Evokate resources span a variety of topics including an overview of mental health insurance coverage, strategies and solutions for destigmatizing mental health care, and expanding care access for all. Users can also engage with videos, advocacy toolkits, and links to related resources.
The youth who led the direction of this site are a group of 20 young adults ages 18-25 from many different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives across the U.S. What brings them together is passion for a change in mental health trends. For them, improving mental health means pushing forward the ideas and leadership in racial justice & mental health, LGBTQ+ mental health, and equitable access to services.
Evokate will allow young adults to hear from others about their real-life experiences in mental health advocacy, and provide resources to learn about issues and how to take action for change in different topic areas. For example, a user of the tool can read key statistics and background information about housing insecurity for LGBTQ+ youth. After learning about the issue, users are encouraged to take an action like contacting a local homeless shelter and/or LGBTQ Community Center to find ways to help. Other issues on the site include banning conversion therapy, promoting gender affirming care, and how to combat discriminatory policies and laws.
This tool comes at an essential time. Mental health challenges for young people are at an all-time high. According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Youth and Mental Health, suicide rates among youth ages 10-24 in the U.S. increased by 57% in the last 10 years. LGBTQ* youth also experience negative impacts to their mental health as a result of discrimination (75%), inaccessible mental health care (48%), food and housing insecurity (30%), and conversion therapy (13%). It is especially challenging for LGBTQ+ youth of color, who may face discrimination and racism. These experiences – and laws and policies that limit the rights and protections of LGBTQ+ people – can lead youth to feel distressed and unable to cope. They deserve urgent action.
Research shows that inclusive policies and everyday interactions can improve LGBTQ+ well-being. The resources and actions in Evokate encourage young people to get informed, engage others, and change minds to create a more inclusive society. Young activists can make a difference.
It is crucial that national and state policy includes youth voices at the forefront in shaping the policy agenda for mental health. This means pushing forward the ideas and leadership of young people, especially BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth. Evokate gives youth a platform to learn, act, and organize for change.
That is the essence of Pride.
DEFINITIONS: *LGBTQ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning