“The experiences that young people face are already challenging, and we know that LGBTQ+ youth face further challenges and risks, particularly around mental and physical health, because they are often isolated and unable to express themselves as who they truly are,” says Marg Cox, Executive Director of Point In Time. “It is crucial that we work together as a community to build a supportive, accepting, and safe environment for everyone who lives here.”
A Ministry of Health and Long Term Care study in 2012 found that one-quarter of youth reported feeling depressed and one in ten Ontario youth admitted to feeling suicidal or wanting to inflict self-harm in the past year. For LGBT youth the accumulation of homo-negativity, exclusion, discrimination and violence increases the experience of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
“As youth develop a sense of self and seek a sense of belonging their self-esteem can be fragile,” says Kim Dolan, executive director of PARN – home of the 4-Counties’ Rainbow Youth Program. “For Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer or Questioning youth there are additional challenges that strain their sense of self and sense of belonging. How can youth know they are accepted if the adults in our communities aren’t talking about the things they are thinking about? How can they know they are okay if there is a lack of information, representation and visibility in their communities.”
Rainbow Youth Haliburton’s members include Point In Time, Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit, the Trillium Lakelands District School Board, and the Rainbow Youth Coalition.
“Business owners and community leaders can play an important role building an inclusive community that all youth, including those who identify as LGBTQ, can thrive in,” says Colby Marcellus, owner of Baked and Battered. “By creating safe and supportive spaces where they can be themselves, as well as by creating inclusive work environments free from bullying, we give the message to our youth that they are valued and respected and that Haliburton can be a community they can build a life in.”