Eily Brynn Davidson

@lovehealthjoy
Lindsay Gilbert

What's Behind My Resting 'I’m OK' Face in Life With Chronic Illness

We’ve all heard of resting b*tch face. According to the dictionary, RBF is defined as “an unkind, annoyed, or serious expression that someone has on their face when relaxed, without intending to.” I have decided I have resting “I’m OK” face. It’s similar in that it’s unintended, but appears as bright eyes, a smile, and kindliness. The truth is that this face has become a disguise for me. My disguise to hide the pain and struggles of living with two chronic, incurable illnesses and my mental health illnesses. Resting b*tch face has a negative connotation, but resting I’m OK face may have a more positive association. Everyone wants us to be happy, find the positive, and look for the good. I learned this from a young age. Girls are prettier when they smile. Put on your game face. No one needs to know that shame you feel. Turn that frown upside down. It’s become more profound with social media and the “good vibes only” mentality. Social media is filled with pictures of happy, perfect, put-together, and smiling individuals. We all know many pictures are staged. Mine are. I take 45 hoping just one turns out and then edit it for the best lighting and colors. I find the one where all three children are looking. I change positions to hide the clutter in the background. It’s all part of the game of appearing you have it all together and life is perfect. But we all know no life is perfect. In fact, my life has been a spiral of pain, suffering, and darkness. So what happens when you are living in darkness and can’t see any light but maintain the resting I’m OK face? You are searching for any positivity, but it isn’t there. Then, I believe this disguise of the resting I’m OK face can be dangerous. Following a mental breakdown and eight-day hospital stay, I have been struggling to even find the bottom of the hole I am living in, so there is absolutely no way to find any glimpse of light. However, I find myself going out into public, ever so slowly, one foot in front of the other, with an I’m OK face on. It’s misguided as people who probably mean well say “you look so healthy and happy,” “you’ve made a great recovery,” and “it must be so great to have that all behind you.” The reality is, I’m still in it. I don’t know how to get out, and I’m also having to unlearn the facial expressions that have been deceiving me my whole life. Or maybe others can begin to understand that even though someone is smiling, they may not be OK. Maybe we could take an extra second and look someone in the eyes and ask, “Truly, how are you doing?” Maybe we could all take a look at our resting faces and decide to remove the disguise to let others see us as we truly are. I know seeing someone in pain all the time does not meet the social guidelines of trying to find the positive in everything, but it also can be toxic for those who are truly struggling. Let’s all work on our resting “It’s OK that I’m not OK” face.

Heidi Fischer

7 Reasons You Haven't Heard From a Friend With Mental Illness

If you’ve decided to read this writing, my guess is you likely have someone in your life who has a mental illness and who also disappears. You might be aware that yes, this vanishing takes place, but perhaps you don’t know the why. Conversely, it could be that you are the person who takes flight, and you’d like a little help with finding the words to explain this phenomenon. Well, never fear, I am here to help with unraveling this mystery. Or at least as the self-proclaimed expert on disappearing acts, I’d like to suggest some themes I’ve noticed are pretty common. So let’s go ahead and get started. 1. “I don’t have enough energy for other people.” When folks are mentally unwell, every ounce of energy may be going into the basic activities required for living. It can feel like we have no energy left for anything “extra” like seeing a friend. 2. “People are better off without me around.” We may believe that we have nothing to offer, that we have no good qualities, or that no one misses us anyways. Likewise, we may feel like we are too much of a “downer” or will bring down the mood. 3. “I can’t fulfill societal norms.” We may feel overwhelmed by the idea of needing to perform in a certain way. Small talk, smiling, making eye contact, being dressed appropriately. All of this may just be too much for us right now. 4. “I can’t control my emotions.” We may be experiencing panic attacks, crying fits, or other things we don’t really want others to see. We may be afraid of “causing a scene,” doing something embarrassing, or that we will be judged or ridiculed. 5. “I feel embarrassed.” It could be we haven’t washed our hair for a week, our house may be extremely messy, or perhaps we feel shame that things have “gotten bad again” after being well for a period of time. 6. “I don’t know what to say.” We may feel like a broken record, or that we just don’t know how to explain things. Maybe it isn’t typical for someone of our race, gender, etc. to talk about this. Perhaps our memory and concentration are bad and we can’t find our words. Maybe we tried to talk about this in the past and received a bad reaction. 7. “It’s been too long.” We may want to reconnect but have decided our absence was too lengthy. We may feel reaching out will be too awkward or that you will have moved on and not be interested in us any more. We may think you are angry with us or don’t like us. In truth, I created this list based off my own experience of disappearing because of my mental illnesses and I also included some of the reasons I’ve heard from friends. Like most things in life, the reasons behind why people disappear can vary and be complex. Your situation may be missing or the explanations may be wrong for your circumstance. That’s OK, simply use it as a guide, and fill in the missing information. Lastly I would like offer some suggestions on how to be helpful to those of us who are “disappearers” as truth of the matter is we likely do need some human connection. You can: Continue to invite us to things. Directly tell us you enjoy who we are. Be a low pressure nonjudgmental friend. Educate yourself on our conditions. Ask us to join you in your errands, encourage us with ours. Send little texts, memes, postcards. Give some space at times if need be. Ask us what we need. And above all else be patient! Are your reasons for disappearing on this list? Did this  help you to understand someone who disappears, or give you an idea of how you may support them? Other thoughts or comments, please share below! If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to check out some of my other articles here on The Mighty. If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe.

Why Self-Improvement Burnout is Harmful

I was 16 when I realized something was wrong. I first became aware of the fact that I was depressed 10 years ago. Depression was a foreign concept to me because, y’know, Black millennial girl with Gen X and Boomer parents with generational trauma. I had a loss of interest, was always crying, and was generally a mess. My best friend said she thought I had depression, and I said, “No, I’m just going through a rough spell. I’m fine.” Obviously, and this is something she’s heard continually throughout our friendship, she was right and I was wrong. I was depressed. Beyond that, I had undiagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), severe levels of childhood trauma that finally started manifesting in my life, and debilitating anxiety. Suicidal ideation started fairly soon after that, and it hasn’t stopped since. I was 20 when I finally started tackling my mental health issues. I hung out with people 10 years my senior who had a lot more experience when it comes to healing our mental wounds, and that set a major precedent for me in regards to how I treated my trauma. I became ambitious with it, always challenging myself, seeking therapy continually, and reading every self-help article and book I could get my hands on. Then it feels like the world caught on. Today when you scroll through TikTok or Twitter, it’s nonstop self-help advice from everyone who can have a thought. Nonstop opinions on relationships, mental health, jobs, career, self-care, respectability, and worth — nonstop opinions that plague my feeds, and not wanting my trauma to define me, I jumped in. I soaked it all in like some mentally “fucked-up” sponge because everything I was hearing, reading, seeing, and feeling told me that I was messed up and didn’t have to be. If I journal, do talk therapy, communicate with my friends, and more, then maybe I won’t want to run from things the minute they feel uncomfortable or feel the need to buy shoes as a means to cope with a stressful life. I could be fixed, or so it appeared, and I wanted to be, and that’s where I messed up. I’ve somehow reduced myself to nothing but my trauma. There’s such a thing as too much self-help and being too aware that you start seeing things that may not be even a thing, to begin with. Am I in love or am I just manic and this person has caught my interest? Am I potentially getting addicted to the highs and lows that come with relationship stuff? Am I having a good day or is this a hyperactivity spell due to my ADHD and thus I have way too much energy? Does this make me uncomfortable or nervous, or is this some deep-rooted trauma that I didn’t know about and that I now have to spend hundreds of dollars on to unpack? By trying to separate myself from my trauma – by saying and living by the saying, “I’m more than my trauma,” – I’ve somehow reduced myself to nothing but my trauma. The goal of healing is to live a life that’s healthy, but is it healthy to be so hyperaware of every thought that you have to the extent that you’re so paranoid about your feelings and reactions that you don’t let yourself feel or react at all? It’s this bizarre fear of being unhealthy, codependent, a narcissist, or any of the other buzzwords that TikTok and Twitter love and tend to falsely label people. Why can’t I just be in love and feel those natural highs and lows that come with a new crush or partner? It’s OK to have a day where I’m happy and there’s no damn reason for it other than, “Oh wow! Today is great!” Something can make me uncomfortable because it’s actually just uncomfortable. It doesn’t have to be my “daddy issues.” When self-help becomes self-harm, it’s gone too far, but how do we pull back and pursue this healthily where we still have room to be human? How do we practice “mindfulness” like all the “gurus” (bleh) want us to? Is it actually conceivable? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I am tired right now. I’m so tired of trying to be good, but I’m deathly afraid of what happens if I allow myself to be “bad.”

Heidi Fischer

7 Reasons You Haven't Heard From a Friend With Mental Illness

If you’ve decided to read this writing, my guess is you likely have someone in your life who has a mental illness and who also disappears. You might be aware that yes, this vanishing takes place, but perhaps you don’t know the why. Conversely, it could be that you are the person who takes flight, and you’d like a little help with finding the words to explain this phenomenon. Well, never fear, I am here to help with unraveling this mystery. Or at least as the self-proclaimed expert on disappearing acts, I’d like to suggest some themes I’ve noticed are pretty common. So let’s go ahead and get started. 1. “I don’t have enough energy for other people.” When folks are mentally unwell, every ounce of energy may be going into the basic activities required for living. It can feel like we have no energy left for anything “extra” like seeing a friend. 2. “People are better off without me around.” We may believe that we have nothing to offer, that we have no good qualities, or that no one misses us anyways. Likewise, we may feel like we are too much of a “downer” or will bring down the mood. 3. “I can’t fulfill societal norms.” We may feel overwhelmed by the idea of needing to perform in a certain way. Small talk, smiling, making eye contact, being dressed appropriately. All of this may just be too much for us right now. 4. “I can’t control my emotions.” We may be experiencing panic attacks, crying fits, or other things we don’t really want others to see. We may be afraid of “causing a scene,” doing something embarrassing, or that we will be judged or ridiculed. 5. “I feel embarrassed.” It could be we haven’t washed our hair for a week, our house may be extremely messy, or perhaps we feel shame that things have “gotten bad again” after being well for a period of time. 6. “I don’t know what to say.” We may feel like a broken record, or that we just don’t know how to explain things. Maybe it isn’t typical for someone of our race, gender, etc. to talk about this. Perhaps our memory and concentration are bad and we can’t find our words. Maybe we tried to talk about this in the past and received a bad reaction. 7. “It’s been too long.” We may want to reconnect but have decided our absence was too lengthy. We may feel reaching out will be too awkward or that you will have moved on and not be interested in us any more. We may think you are angry with us or don’t like us. In truth, I created this list based off my own experience of disappearing because of my mental illnesses and I also included some of the reasons I’ve heard from friends. Like most things in life, the reasons behind why people disappear can vary and be complex. Your situation may be missing or the explanations may be wrong for your circumstance. That’s OK, simply use it as a guide, and fill in the missing information. Lastly I would like offer some suggestions on how to be helpful to those of us who are “disappearers” as truth of the matter is we likely do need some human connection. You can: Continue to invite us to things. Directly tell us you enjoy who we are. Be a low pressure nonjudgmental friend. Educate yourself on our conditions. Ask us to join you in your errands, encourage us with ours. Send little texts, memes, postcards. Give some space at times if need be. Ask us what we need. And above all else be patient! Are your reasons for disappearing on this list? Did this  help you to understand someone who disappears, or give you an idea of how you may support them? Other thoughts or comments, please share below! If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to check out some of my other articles here on The Mighty. If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe.

Heidi Fischer

7 Reasons You Haven't Heard From a Friend With Mental Illness

If you’ve decided to read this writing, my guess is you likely have someone in your life who has a mental illness and who also disappears. You might be aware that yes, this vanishing takes place, but perhaps you don’t know the why. Conversely, it could be that you are the person who takes flight, and you’d like a little help with finding the words to explain this phenomenon. Well, never fear, I am here to help with unraveling this mystery. Or at least as the self-proclaimed expert on disappearing acts, I’d like to suggest some themes I’ve noticed are pretty common. So let’s go ahead and get started. 1. “I don’t have enough energy for other people.” When folks are mentally unwell, every ounce of energy may be going into the basic activities required for living. It can feel like we have no energy left for anything “extra” like seeing a friend. 2. “People are better off without me around.” We may believe that we have nothing to offer, that we have no good qualities, or that no one misses us anyways. Likewise, we may feel like we are too much of a “downer” or will bring down the mood. 3. “I can’t fulfill societal norms.” We may feel overwhelmed by the idea of needing to perform in a certain way. Small talk, smiling, making eye contact, being dressed appropriately. All of this may just be too much for us right now. 4. “I can’t control my emotions.” We may be experiencing panic attacks, crying fits, or other things we don’t really want others to see. We may be afraid of “causing a scene,” doing something embarrassing, or that we will be judged or ridiculed. 5. “I feel embarrassed.” It could be we haven’t washed our hair for a week, our house may be extremely messy, or perhaps we feel shame that things have “gotten bad again” after being well for a period of time. 6. “I don’t know what to say.” We may feel like a broken record, or that we just don’t know how to explain things. Maybe it isn’t typical for someone of our race, gender, etc. to talk about this. Perhaps our memory and concentration are bad and we can’t find our words. Maybe we tried to talk about this in the past and received a bad reaction. 7. “It’s been too long.” We may want to reconnect but have decided our absence was too lengthy. We may feel reaching out will be too awkward or that you will have moved on and not be interested in us any more. We may think you are angry with us or don’t like us. In truth, I created this list based off my own experience of disappearing because of my mental illnesses and I also included some of the reasons I’ve heard from friends. Like most things in life, the reasons behind why people disappear can vary and be complex. Your situation may be missing or the explanations may be wrong for your circumstance. That’s OK, simply use it as a guide, and fill in the missing information. Lastly I would like offer some suggestions on how to be helpful to those of us who are “disappearers” as truth of the matter is we likely do need some human connection. You can: Continue to invite us to things. Directly tell us you enjoy who we are. Be a low pressure nonjudgmental friend. Educate yourself on our conditions. Ask us to join you in your errands, encourage us with ours. Send little texts, memes, postcards. Give some space at times if need be. Ask us what we need. And above all else be patient! Are your reasons for disappearing on this list? Did this  help you to understand someone who disappears, or give you an idea of how you may support them? Other thoughts or comments, please share below! If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to check out some of my other articles here on The Mighty. If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe.

Why The Age You Experienced Trauma Matters

Trauma knocks us down and changes our lives forever. Sexual assault, violence, neglect, emotional abuse – these experiences steal our sense of safety, flood our bodies with stress, and can take years to recover from whether we’re 5 or 55. There is something about childhood trauma, though, that not only shapes our mental health but our sense of who we are. There are no perfect answers to explain why trauma, even exposure to the same trauma, affects some people differently than others. According to the American Psychological Association, factors like family support, ongoing life stressors, prior trauma exposure, and psychiatric comorbidities all impact our ability to recover after a traumatic event. When children experience trauma while their brains are still developing, they may have fewer protective factors — and therefore risk more life-lasting consequences. If you experienced trauma as a child, this could explain why it seems to leak into everything you do in ways you might still be discovering. This is not to say experiencing trauma as an adult doesn’t have devastating, life-long consequences, or that your traumatic experience counts “less” if it happened later in life. But it is true that adults who experienced less childhood trauma often have stronger foundations to deal with the trauma adulthood throws their way. If you’re an adult who feels like your childhood trauma is who you are (instead of something that happened to you) here are four reasons this might be the case. Early Childhood Trauma Impacts Our Attachment Style The first relationship we have is between us and our caregivers. For most people, this means our parents. When you’re new to the world and trying to figure out what the heck is going on (being a baby is confusing!) how your caregiver initially responds to your needs sets a framework for your future relationships. We’re talking about big questions, like: Am I lovable? Am I safe? Will someone meet my needs? Do I even deserve to have my needs met? If you’re neglected during these early years or if your primary caregiver isn’t safe, it changes your answers to these foundational questions. This doesn’t mean someone with a secure attachment won’t be rocked by a breakup, struggle with grief, or take years or even decades to recover from a traumatic loss – but, if your needs were met clearly and regularly early in life, you may have an easier time navigating these relational changes. Although you may question it sometimes, overall you know: I am loved. I am worthy. I deserve to get my needs met. If for some reason you didn’t develop a secure attachment, your core beliefs may be different. For example, if you have an anxious attachment style, you may find yourself constantly questioning your worth in a relationship and fearing abandonment. If this is you, you might believe: I am unworthy of love, nobody loves me, I have to constantly prove myself to get my needs met. If you’re someone with an avoidant attachment style, you might struggle to be vulnerable with a partner. If this is you, your narrative might sound like: I am the only one who can meet my needs, everyone will let me down, emotional connection and vulnerability are dangerous. No one is doomed by their attachment style (I promise!), and it’s important to note attachment traumas aren’t always caused by abuse. The death of a caretaker, outside stressors, cultural factors, and other life circumstances can all impact how our attachment develops. Regardless, these early experiences can affect the quality of our relationships later on, which makes this type of early childhood trauma profound. Early Childhood Trauma Impacts Our Brain Development More than two-thirds of children will experience at least one traumatic event before the age of 16. Just like attachment trauma sets a framework for how we view relationships, early childhood trauma significantly impacts our brain development, rewiring our sense of safety, identity, and ability to regulate our emotions. A video by BrainFacts.org does a great job explaining how trauma impacts a child’s developing brain. As the video explains, some stress during our childhood is normal and even welcomed. It’s how we learn to solve problems, tolerate uncomfortable emotions, and develop skills to deal with stress later on. But if you were a child who was constantly under stress, perhaps because you lived in an abusive home, this likely disrupted the development of certain brain structures and actually increased your risk of developing stress-related diseases later in life. Specifically, our amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and anterior cingulate cortex – parts of our brain that help us sense danger, regulate emotions, and develop cognitive functions like empathy, impulse control, and decision-making – can all be impacted by childhood trauma. Childhood Trauma Changes Our Internal Narratives Even adults who’ve experienced trauma grapple with the why. Why would this happen to me? How could it have been avoided? What did I do wrong? For children who are still developing their ability to understand complex topics, this “why” is even more confusing – and part of what makes childhood trauma so insidious. If you were a child when you experienced trauma, depending on where you were developmentally, it’s likely your brain didn’t have the ability to make sense of your traumatic experience. For example, if you experienced a traumatic event between the ages of 2 and 7, that’s when you’re still developing the ability to see things from the perspective of others – so you literally think the world revolves around you. That means after experiencing a trauma, you literally couldn’t create an explanation you weren’t at the center of, so you concluded it had to be your fault. This self-blame, even if it’s subconscious, could be why childhood trauma survivors often struggle with their self-esteem and experience negative self-talk. Especially in cases of emotional abuse, the narrative of the abuser often becomes the internal narrative of the child, something many trauma survivors need to unlearn in adulthood. While adults who experience emotional abuse aren’t immune to its effects, they might have a strong enough positive, internal narrative to understand the behavior has more to do with the other person, and that the blame doesn’t fall on them. Many People Who Experience Childhood Trauma Are Retraumatized Perhaps the saddest fact about childhood trauma is this already vulnerable population is more at-risk of being retraumatized. This doesn’t happen to everyone. Some children may experience a “one-off” trauma, like getting into a car crash or the tragic death of a loved one. These traumatic events are devastating and, of course, can leave life-long impacts, but with the right support, most children can return to their previous levels of functioning and even develop resiliency skills in the process. For other children, the conditions that initially exposed them to trauma are often a breeding ground for more trauma exposure. For example, a teenager who spends most of his time outside the home to avoid an abusive parent may find himself more at-risk of violence on the streets. If a parent who neglects their child doesn’t teach them about boundaries with strangers, this child is now more at-risk of being revictimized by other adults. These repetitive traumas (and the chronic stress that comes with them) put young people more at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or even complex PTSD. The more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) you have, the more likely you are to experience negative outcomes. Childhood Trauma Is Not Who You Are For those still navigating a childhood trauma recovery journey, I hope that understanding why childhood trauma sticks to us the way it does increases the compassion you have for yourself. When you look back at yourself as a child – a child whose brain was still developing, whose environment led to more trauma, and who developed an attachment style they didn’t choose – please remember it was not your fault, and as an adult, you deserve all the support and love you need to heal.

Mike McBride

The Danger in Invalidating Someone's Mental Health Experience

I have shared about the importance of validating someone’s story when it comes to abuse or mental health, but I saw something later that made me want to write more about the little ways we invalidate someone’s experience. It all started with this story, where Heidi shares what is probably not an uncommon scenario: “The first time I needed to go to the hospital for mental health reasons, I was in my early 20s and I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect or what was going to happen. I had nearly no familiarity with talking openly to anyone about my inner workings, let alone to strangers. Eventually, you, the doctor, commenced with asking me what was wrong. I didn’t know how to respond. I froze while searching for my words. And that’s when you said “it.” “Did your boyfriend break up with you?” I stared back bewildered, and eventually replied:“I don’t have a boyfriend.”You: “Oh, is that why you’re sad?”Me, in disbelief: “… No.”” What we see here is a young woman in distress because of a mental health condition and having the doctor, and others, ask questions that appear to be very dismissive. Tying a major depressive episode to being sad about a breakup. Because you know, young women get all “in their feels” when they have a breakup, so it’s probably nothing more than that. Except major depression is more than that! Someone heading to a hospital for mental health care is not sad a boy doesn’t like them anymore, is not hormonal, and is not angry about not getting a job, or even looking for a break from a stressful job. They are sick, in every meaning of that word, and they need treatment from caring and compassionate health workers. We could go on about the inherent sexism in Heidi’s story, but I leave that to her to tell by following the link above. What I want to talk about is the dismissiveness, because that really cuts across all genders and people who are struggling. As I consider mental health struggles there has always been a standard list of things people say that while maybe not meaning to be dismissive, are. And when someone dismisses our story or our situation, it can have some really negative impacts. Things like: “It’s not that bad” “Are you just tired?” “You need more exercise, or to eat healthier” “Just stop being so negative” Every one of these comes across as you wanting to provide an easy answer so that you can stop having to think about mental health. You need them to get better because they’re bringing you down, so it’s frankly easier for you to be dismissive, as opposed to trying to validate what someone is feeling or going through. That might require more time talking and thinking about mental illness, and who wants to do that? Yet, that’s exactly what helps someone feel validated. Being able to tell their story to someone willing to not dismiss it. We could also talk about abuse here too, and all the ways our stories all invalidated. How many of these have you heard from folks who find out about the abuse you dealt with as a child, or even as an adult: “You were young, you’ll get over it” (Or you don’t remember it that well) “Are you sure it was abuse?” “I can’t imagine (abuser) doing that” “Why didn’t you just leave?” “How could you have let that happen?” Sadly, I’ve seen these phrases applied to adults in abusive relationships, and I’ve also seen them applied to children by people who clearly do not understand how incredibly hurtful they are to hear. Again, abuse is not a subject many of us want to talk about, or even think about. It’s dark, painful and ugly. Knowing that someone we care about was, or is being, abused is painful. It hurts, and often we want to avoid that hurt, so again we find a way to question it. To dismiss this person in front of us who is dealing with that same uncomfortableness, only more so because it’s their story, they don’t get to walk away from it. These are not things they want to hear. Hearing them usually leads to an immediate shutdown. A decision that my story is too much, that I need to go back to being quiet, possibly even go back to being abused, because there’s no one willing to even validate what I’m going through, let alone support me through it. And that silence kills people. Don’t doubt that for a second. Please keep that in mind before you speak. That person sharing their story doesn’t need you to solve all of their problems, they just need you to know, to be there with them, and validate that what they are feeling is real and OK. That’s not that hard when you think about it, but it will be uncomfortable. Is someone else’s life worth some discomfort to you? I sure hope it is. The original version of this article appeared on the author’s blog.

Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' Bill Risks LGBTQ Youth Mental Health

For the past while, it has felt a little bit like the world is somehow sliding back into a less tolerant age, even while marginalized people such as the LGBTQIA+ community are publicly accepted more than ever. And perhaps that’s the curse of living in a social media echo chamber, where confirmation bias is king. I certainly know that I surround myself with queer people and fellow allies because I believe in the diversity of gender and sexuality, and quickly prune any such people I find morally repugnant. Maybe that’s why I was so horrified by recent news. In Florida, Rep. Joe Harding introduced the Parental Rights in Education bill, also known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which could open districts to potential lawsuits from parents who believe LGBTQIA+ discussions aren’t appropriate for their children. A proposed amendment to the bill, thankfully withdrawn, would have required schools to out students within six weeks of learning that they are queer. Then, there exists Texas Gov. Greg Abbot’s call for “licensed professionals” and members of the general public to report the parents of transgender minors by virtue of only receiving gender-affirming medical care. Two U.S. politicians, proposing laws that would effectively declare open season and witch hunts on queer people across America. The danger isn’t only in the despicable moral ramifications, though, but also in the ramifications that this will have on the mental health of the estimated 9 million young people in the U.S. who identify as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. The Mental Health Risks of the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill A recent survey conducted by the Trevor Project found that 42% of LGBTQIA+ youths seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021. This rises to 50% for transgender and gender-diverse children, who are between two and three times more likely to experience a lack of safety at school. The Trevor Project also estimates that at least one LGBTQIA+ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the U.S. They also found that, since many report multiple suicide attempts in a given year, “this estimate likely underrepresents the extent of how often LGBTQ youth attempt suicide in the U.S.” These are stark figures that are often unreported alongside Rep. Joe Harding’s push for stricter control in schools, despite his repeated assurance that the bill is more about “empowering parents,” not prohibiting students from talking about LGBTQIA+ families. It is, he said, not about hate. It is about “creating boundaries at an early age of what is appropriate in our schools.” But creating a culture of fear and silence around the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly in light of the withdrawn amendment, does not create a place where queer youth feel safe. Writing for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, pediatric psychologist Natasha L. Poulopoulos, Ph.D., said that children have an innate sense of their gender identity between the ages of 3 and 5, and that: “Gender exploration is a crucial aspect of development, and gender diverse children often feel alone, misunderstood or unsupported.” She continues: “Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill will undoubtedly have detrimental psychological and physical impacts on children and their families. Many LGBTQ+ children live in nonaffirming environments, and this bill will perpetuate the idea that gender identity and/or sexual orientation are shameful and to be hidden. This will further marginalize LGBTQ+ children, which will have long-term psychological impacts into adolescence and adulthood.” Conversely, LGBTQIA+ children who learn about queer issues at school are 23% less likely to attempt suicide. But Rep. Joe Harding wants to take away the safety that young people find in gender-affirming environments, under the guise of empowering parents to be involved in conversations about their children’s sexual or gender identity — knowing that these children are perhaps growing up in unsupportive or toxic environments where they are either forced to hide their identity or face the danger of revealing it. The bill has already passed in the Florida House and, if signed into law, goes into effect July 1. It’s hard to know which is worse; Florida’s attempt to silence what they see as indoctrination of youth in schools, or Texas Gov. Greg Abbot’s call for members of the public to report the parents of transgender minors to state authorities if they are receiving gender-affirming medical care, which can involve hormone therapy or surgeries. This is child abuse, he said, effectively declaring a witch hunt for parents simply trying to deliver affirming and supportive medical care for their transgender children. This has been condemned by Frank C. Worrell, Ph.D., president of the American Psychological Association. He said: “This ill-conceived directive … will put at-risk children at even higher risk of anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide. Gender-affirming care promotes the health and well-being of transgender youth and is provided by medical and mental health professionals, based on well-established scientific research. The peer-reviewed research suggests that transgender children and youth who are treated with affirmation and receive evidence-based treatments tend to see improvements in their psychological well-being.” He goes on to say that asking licensed medical and mental health professionals to report parents who are trying to give their children evidence-based care would also violate patient confidentiality and professional ethics. These two political opinions, taken together, serve to diminish the strides society has taken in the last decade toward a world where gender diversity and sexual orientation are celebrated, welcomed, and understood — a world where people can live as their authentic selves in relative safety. They risk the mental health of millions of Americans — not only the LGBTQIA+ youth growing up in a world that seeks to erase them but also the adults watching society take two steps forward and one step back. The “Don’t Say Gay” Bill, along with Abbot’s call to report parents and the more than 170 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills already filed by conservative state legislators this year, make it clear to queer youth that some of society meet them not with love, but with hatred. What the LGBTQIA+ Community Says About Mental health Facts and statistics are great but don’t take my word for it. These queer Mighty contributors speak directly on the threat to young queer people’s mental health. The Hard Truth These Stories Reveal About Mental Health in the LGBTQIA+ Community We Need to Talk About Suicide and the LGBTQIA+ Population 20 Affirmations and Readings For Folks Raised in Anti-LGBTQIA+ Church Families The Peaks, Valleys and Trauma of Finally Living Authentically as Gender Nonconforming Update: 3/4/22, 12:25 p.m. ET: Since the publication of this article, it has come to light that the Texas Department of Health and Human Services appears to have removed resources for LGBTQIA+ youths from its suicide prevention web page. The page contains a number of suicide prevention resources and crisis lines. On February 1, the page included the Trevor Project, the nonprofit providing suicide prevention support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual youth. As reported by NBC, this was subsequently removed — the only crisis line to be removed from the list.

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