Some thoughts on helping LBG youth to cope with hard times
Suicide can be the response of youth when their problems or self-hatred seem absolutely insurmountable. As Project 10 volunteers, we can help youth to find the resources, both within and outside themselves, that will help them to value themselves, and to cope with depression and tough times, without turning to suicide as a solution.
“Free Your Mind”, by Ellen Bass and Kate Kaufman, includes a section called “if i live, i'll be great: making it through hard times”. (This book is an excellent tool, and recommended reading for anyone working with lesbian, bisexual, and gay youth.) The authors make a number of suggestions for coping with the pain of coming out, and dealing with difficulties related to family, friends, and romantic relationships. You might want to keep these in mind, or pass them on to the youth you are working with. Their recommendations:
1. Love yourself.
Be gentle with yourself, and tell yourself encouraging and selfaffirming things. Remind yourself of your strengths. Being gay or bisexual does not change who you are as a person; you are still the same wonderful human being you have always been. Make sure you take good care of yourself: eat regularly and get plenty of rest and exercise. Just do the best you can; each little step you take makes it easier to take the next one.
2. It's not about you.
When homophobic people are making your life difficult, by harassing you, saying bad things about you, or just denying your existence, it's hard not to take it personally. But the truth is that their actions reflect on who they are, and on the misinformation that they have been taught. Their homophobia has nothing to do with the person that you really are.
3. Express yourself.
Creativity can sustain your spirit in the face of painful experiences. It's a way to take what is destructive and turn it into something constructive and meaningful. One way to communicate your feelings is to keep a journal or diary for yourself where you can vent your feelings, create a work of fiction, write a manifesto, or just express whatever you need to let out. Drawing, painting, sculpting, singing, drumming, and dancing are all positive outlets for your emotions. And who knows, you may create a masterpiece.
4. Keep up the activities that you care about..
Pursue the things that you love, be they theater, school, music, sports, camping, dancing, whatever. Although it won't make your problems go away, it will keep them from dominating the entire landscape for you. You may be a kid under siege, but you're also a young adult creating a meaningful life.
5. Find ways to laugh..
You'll feel better.
6. Getting out.
(*Give this advice with care: take into account the youth's socioeconomic status, cultural community, and age.*) If you are in high school and having a hard time, one of the best ways to get out is to study hard and get to college or university. You're likely to find a much more diverse community, and more support for LBG students. If you live in a homophobic small town, moving to a bigger city and getting a job may be another way out.
7. Be an activist!
When you're alone and harassed, you're a victim. But when you join with other people to fight oppression, you're an activist. It's empowering, it's a good way to meet people, and it shifts the focus from feeling like there's something wrong with you (these isn't!) to fighting what's wrong with the world.
To read the full article, click here to download the PDF document