At the Walnut West branch of the Free Library, several stereotypes were addressed as a crowd of just over a dozen people gathered to discuss the importance of mental health issues in the LGBTQ community, including the increased risk of suicide.
The session promoted collaboration between those in attendance and the presenters. It also served as a training session for residents to learn how to recognize and prevent suicidal actions, as well as understand their roots.
“It’s important to know that LGBTQ+ people are not specifically or inherently more likely to have higher rates of depression or suicidal ideation,” said César Mantilla, assistant manager of community-based services in Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and disAbility Services (DBHIDS). “It’s the product of treatment from a hostile world that results in these statistics.”
The statistics are jarring, particularly among young members of the LGBTQ community. According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ youth contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth.
“It’s an important conversation that has to be had,” said Cynthia Baran, an educator and counselor in attendance who found the event when looking through the DBHIDS website. “It was a short session but very juicy. I would love to see more of these.”
The group, led by Mantilla and Andrea October, a trauma resilience training coordinator at DBHIDS, led off the discussion with the importance of using correct terminology. The meeting was immediately labeled as an “assumption-free zone,” as people introduced themselves based upon both their name and preferred pronouns.
“We want to start with the importance of appropriate identity terms so we can have a shared language in this space when we talk about these issues,” Mantilla said. “We chose LGBTQ+ as the acronym for this event and that’s because the plus can include many other identities, some that we may not have the language for yet.”
Philadelphia is known as one of the friendliest cities for LGBTQ communities in the entire country. In 2018, the Human Rights Campaign rated Philadelphia 100 out of 100 in its most recent Municipal Equality Index.
As Mantilla and October broke down how mental health affects those in the LGBTQ community, as well as various other issues including racism and sexism that often are less noticed, they were reminded by the engaged population in the room just how much residents in Philadelphia aim to respect and be allies to the members of those groups.
“Even this is a great first step,” October said as the meeting adjourned to applause.
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