Strategies for Improving Emotional Well-Being Among LGBTQ Youth: Stories From the Field of MCH
June 24, 2020

In honor of Pride Month (learn the history of Pride Month), we asked State Maternal & Child Health (MCH) programs to share what they are doing to improve and support emotional well-being among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in their states. We know that LGBTQ youth experience life differently than their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts, including increased likelihood of experiencing negative mental health outcomes as evidenced by the results of the Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. Two key points from the survey: LGBTQ youth are more likely to consider attempting suicide and they report feeling sad or hopeless for at least two weeks in the past year.

State MCH Programs are working on supporting and improving LGBTQ youth mental health in their settings. Here’s a snapshot of what they are doing: 

Assessing for LGBTQ-Friendliness: The Tennessee MCH program partners with their state’s Title X Family Planning Program to implement an annual teen, male, LGBTQ friendliness assessment in family planning clinics across the state. The survey allows clinics to assess themselves and illuminate areas where they can improve male, teen, and LGBTQ-friendliness within their practice. To address the assessed areas of improvement, the TN MCH program will partner with local, youth-led reproductive justice and LGBTQ organization to advise on innovative solutions. If you are interested in viewing the assessment, click here

Partnering to Provide Trainings:

  • The Florida Maternal, Child & Adolescent Health (MCAH) Program partners with Equality Florida, an organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBTQ community, to offer trainings to school district staff and health education. The trainings include sexual minority competency and creation of safe spaces. In addition to partnering for trainings, the Florida MCAH Program distributes Equality Florida’s resource to all their youth-serving organizations.
  • The New Jersey Child and Adolescent Health (CAH) Program partners with the Transgender Training Institute to provide trainings for staff of youth-serving programs and services to assist them with ensuring that their spaces are inclusive for transgender and non-binary youth. Policies and practices that are encouraged during the training include providing gender neutral restrooms, using gender affirming pronouns on signatures and name badges, sensitivity training for all program staff, and building inclusivity into all lesson plans, if applicable. Additionally, the NJ CAH Program has partnered with the Department of Children and Families Safe Space Program in their state to provide training and support to foster parents across the state so that they are able to provide a more supportive environment for their foster children who are LGBTQ identified.   

Funding Direct Services for LGBTQ Youth: The Pennsylvania MCH Program has recently released a request for applications to provide LGBTQ youth behavioral health services. From the RFA, “applicants will achieve these changes in targeted behavior through the implementation of evidence-based or evidence-informed behavioral health programming focused on improving the mental health, reducing substance use, or providing suicide prevention education for LGBTQ youth ages 12-21 in Pennsylvania.” Stay tuned for an update on the selected grantees via this blog, coming in the Fall!

Here are additional resources for State MCH Programs and their partners from The Trevor Projectthe leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ people under 25:  

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit their webpage to chat with someone online.