Pride Month is a celebration of LGBTQ+ culture, community, self-expression, and resilience. Some say that this year’s pride celebration is more vital than ever, as LGBTQ+ people and allies face of a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ bills being pushed in state legislatures across the country and conservative backlash over pride marketing efforts by brands like Target and Bud Light.
The impact on LGBTQ young people cannot be ignored. A new survey by The Trevor Project reports that nearly one in three LGBTQ young people said their mental health was poor most of the time or always due to anti-LGBTQ policies and legislation.
“The content of these bills and the criticism of pride-related marketing campaigns are not just harmful and discriminatory, they’re also incredibly detrimental to mental health, especially in young people,” says David Bond, director of Behavioral Health at Blue Shield of California, and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). “That’s because of the stigma these actions are designed to create.”
Dr. Nicole Stelter, director of Behavioral Health, Commercial Markets, at Blue Shield of California, and an industrial/organizational psychologist and licensed psychotherapist, agrees: “Having your rights threatened, or having your very personhood debated can be traumatizing or re-traumatizing. Leaning on healthy coping strategies, community support - and seeking treatment if needed - can help.”
How to cope
“As best as you can, stay grounded,” says Bond. “Always take a deep breath first when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Stress can cause tension in your body, and that can affect your mental and physical health.”
Bond and Stelter recommend several ways to cope:
- Practice regular affirmations - Stelter says daily mindfulness or recurring self-care practice can be a great preventative strategy.
“Don’t take your foot off the gas of what you already do to keep your mind and body healthy,” advises Stelter. “Now is not the time to just stay busy. Carve out time every day for self-care.”
- Express your feelings safely - Bond recommends finding trusted people to talk to, whether that be a friend, loved one, mental health professional, or all three.
“Allow yourself to vent and emote and express all the feelings that you have,” says Bond. “We want to make sure that we’re seen and heard but balanced with conversations about optimism and hope.”
- Curate your social media - These days, a large part of our life happens online and the algorithms that entertain and connect us also predict what we want to see based on what we’ve looked at before. Unfortunately, that means that when we’re feeling down, we can get swept up in a stream of content that just makes us feel worse.
“Make sure your social media is helping you choose health,” says Bond. He recommends taking the time to be intentional about the accounts you follow. “Look for and prioritize content that puts a smile on your face, that celebrates LGBTQ+ people in all our diversity, and that features people you look up to who are coping in a healthy way.”
- Find resources - Even if you don’t have a supportive home environment, you can get great advice from a multitude of mental health organizations and LGBTQ Community Centers online, including programs focused on young people.
“Blue Shield of California’s BlueSky program links to mental health supports for youth and their parents,” notes Stelter. “We also worked with the Child Mind Institute on a series of youth mental health guides, including one tailored to the LGBTQ+ community.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, dial or text 988 to reach a counselor at the national 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. It’s a resource for people who are struggling and for those looking to offer support.
Choose hope, engage with your community
“This Pride Month, Blue Shield of California wants the LGBTQ+ community to know that we are proud to support you. We stand with our LGBTQ+ employees, with our LGBTQ+ members, and with the entire LGBTQ+ community,” said Stelter.
Join Blue Shield of California at upcoming pride events including: