New Resource Named "Best Practices" on Suicide Prevention for LGBT Youth

I don't need to tell most readers that LGBT youth are at a higher risk than their non-LGBT peers for attempting suicide. Until today, however, no “Best Practices” have been identified or designated to help reduce vulnerability and risk among LGBT children, youth, or adults.

That has now changed.

The national Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention, coordinated by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has designated a multi-lingual, multi-cultural series of family education booklets from the Family Acceptance Project (FAP) at San Francisco State University as the first “Best Practice” resources for suicide prevention for LGBT youth and young adults.

The booklets—"Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Families Support their LGBT Children"— were developed after extensive research and direct feedback from families, LGBT youth, and service providers. They offer non-judgmental, research-based guidance, using personal stories, "to help ethnically and religiously diverse families understand how specific reactions to their children’s LGBT identity both contribute to and protect against risk for suicide and related health problems," according to a press release. They are available in specific cultural versions in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

Dr. Ryan and her team were the first to put research findings behind what may seem obvious to many of us: LGBT youth whose families are accepting of their LGBT identities are more likely to become happy, healthy adults, and less likely to have depression, suicide risk, substance abuse, and similar problems.

Ryan explains, "Our research shows that common rejecting behaviors such as trying to prevent LGBT youth from learning about their identity, not allowing them to have gay friends or not letting them participate in an LGBT youth group are related to a nine-times greater likelihood of attempted suicide."

Ryan has also shown the lingering effects of childhood bullying and the positive effects of gay-straight alliance clubs.

The FAP is as much about intervention, education and policy as it is about research, however. Greater Boston PFLAG President Stan Griffith, whose chapters have used FAP's approach and materials since 2007, calls the new booklets “an indispensable part of every individual or group conversation with parents and caregivers and with professionals who provide counseling, health and other services to children, youth and families.”

"Supportive Families, Healthy Children" is available for download on the FAP Web site. Printed copies are also available, and lower literacy and faith-based versions are in development. FAP provides on-site training on using all of their resources and tools. Contact fap@sfsu.edu for more information.

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