1. Learn about early signs of mental illness
While all diagnoses have different symptoms it would be helpful for you to be aware of these common adolescent/adult warning signs:
- Excessive worrying or fear, Feeling excessively sad or low
- Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
- Extreme mood changes
- Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
- Avoiding friends and social activities
- Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
- Changes in eating habits
- Lack of insight
- Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
- An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
2. Respect their identity
We can do this by affirming how they choose to live and use the appropriate name and pronouns. By not misgendering and accepting the way youth are living their life lowers suicide risk and saves lives.
3. Be an ally
Stand up against homophobia, address anti-LGBTQ+ language or actions when it happens, Support organizations like OUT Maine, and learn what you can do to make your community a safer place for LGBTQ+ youth.
4. Help youth find mental health resources
Guide them to local resources like the Gender Clinic in Portland, OUT Maine programming, and the school Social Worker/Clinician, or by helping them search online for local therapists. You can assist parents by giving them book recommendations or parent support groups at OUT Maine.
Listen to what youth are saying. They want to be heard. Hear them and do something to help. If there is bullying happening, as the responsible adult what are you doing about it? Let them know they can trust you to take care of them while they are at school/community or a home.
6. Don’t assume
Clothing, body type or physical appearance don’t make a gender. Challenge your implicit biases and question why you assume someone to be a “boy” or not. Allow yourself to be open to change and think outside the binary.
Allow LGBTQ+ youth to see representation in school, their homes or in the community. Read books, utilize posters or videos to talk beyond the binary. Use this opportunity to educate everyone about the different identities or sexual orientations that people can have.
8. Educate yourself
Never assume that LGBTQ+ youth are responsible for educating you about gender or sexual orientation. It is not their job to defend or have to explain all of the things you don’t know. Educate yourself with books, articles, social media etc.