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Showing our pride

DSC_0043.JPGThere is a group of young people in Maine who are more frequently subjected to bullying and violence. They are over represented in the foster care system, homeless shelters, and residential treatment facilities. This group tragically also experiences higher rates of substance use, depression, and suicide attempts. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth come through our doors every day to seek care for everything from wellness to crisis intervention. Acadia Hospital with our community partners are working to reverse the trend of these startling statistics.

LGBTQ youth can tend to shy away from seeking medical services out of fear of rejection or discrimination, according to Chris McLaughlin, LCSW, associate vice president of Community and Pediatric Services at Acadia Hospital. “Patients who identify as LGBTQ will often come into healthcare settings already with so much anxiety and fear.”

Misty Richardson, LCSW, child inpatient clinician at Acadia Hospital, said that in the past, LGBTQ individuals generally lived in an environment of fear and were often treated as if their sexuality was a mental illness, which made it difficult for them to trust mental health providers and seek treatment. “I am part of the LGBTQ community, but spent many years ‘in the closet,’ hiding who I was because of actions and threats against me the first time I was ‘out.’” She added that while she sees that society is more accepting, there is unfortunately still discrimination, violence, and misconceptions about the LGBTQ community.

Chris believes that far too often, as providers, we look to our patients to educate us on issues of gender and sexuality. “We have a professional responsibility to educate ourselves so we do not put our patients in the role of trainer all the time. Seeking out that expertise and creating a treatment environment that is open, sensitive, and responsive are some easy ways to support our LGBTQ patients.”

This year, Acadia Hospital became a sponsor of the Bangor Maine Pride Festival and created a team to walk in the parade event as a way to raise awareness and educate the public on LGBTQ issues. Misty is organizing the hospital’s presence at the festival and said she is proud to lead this effort on behalf of Acadia Hospital. “It’s important to let the patients, employees, and the public know that we are accepting and trained in issues that affect the LGBTQ community.”

Acadia will also premiere its latest Acadia Hospital CARES (Child-Adolescent Resource and Educational Series) video on LGBTQ youth issues at the festival on June 21. The series is designed to speak to parents, educators, providers, and other adults who want to support young people and join the fight against youth suicide. Chris is incredibly proud of the video series and the power it has to change the lives of our youth in crisis. “Our message is simple: Caring and informed adults have the ability to make dramatic differences for youth who may be thinking about suicide. We have the power to intervene.”

For information about how you or your staff can be trained on LGBTQ (of all ages) issues, contact Chris directly at csmclaughlin@emhs.org.

Watch, share, and discuss the Acadia Hospital CARES videos:
http://www.acadiahospital.org/About-Us/Acadia-CARES/AcadiaCARES-videos.aspx

Helpful resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays: https://www.pflag.org/
The Trevor Project (a national suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ youth): https://www.thetrevorproject.org
Human Rights Campaign: https://www.hrc.org/
Equality Maine: https://equalitymaine.org/
Health Equity Alliance: https://www.mainehealthequity.org/