How to show support for LGBTQ+ family and friends during Pride Month and beyond – NBC Chicago
How to show support for LGBTQ+ family and friends during Pride Month and beyond – NBC Chicago

Pride Month is a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, but the joyful exuberance of parades and parties does not alleviate the suffering of a community.

“Compared to the general population, the suicide rate for people who are part of the LGBTQ community is almost half, they have a 50% higher suicide rate,” said Luma Bonilla-Webster, program manager for the Illinois chapter of the America Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“Depression and anxiety are among the most common problems and we know that these things, if not well treated, can lead to more severe depression and even suicidal thoughts,” Bonilla-Webster said.

Bonilla-Webster will lead an upcoming virtual presentation at 6:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday, June 26, 2024, titled “Talking Saves Lives: An Introduction to LGBTQ Suicide Prevention,” which will cover suicide risk factors and warning signs, as well as simple ways to provide support.

“If you have someone around you who is part of the community, encourage them, check in on them and ask them what they need,” Bonilla-Webster said.

Research has shown that people often don’t know how to start this conversation. They worry that asking about suicide could be a trigger, but studies have shown that it’s OK to ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?”

“Getting specific. ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’ Studies have shown that when people are asked that question, they feel seen and they feel relief. Someone is paying attention to me. Someone cares about me,” Bonilla-Webster said.

Many in the community are afraid to ask for help because they don’t know who to talk to.

“These people often lack LGBTQ-competent psychotherapists. Sometimes they are afraid to seek help because they may not find a therapist who is willing and accepting of these people,” says Logan Spicer, LCPC at Thriveworks, a psychotherapy and mental health provider with 13 locations in Illinois.

Spicer said while resources are available, greater public involvement is needed.

“Mental health care providers need to go out into the community, offer support groups and put their therapists’ names on online referral lists where they can indicate that they are very open-minded and tolerant of these people,” Spicer said.

Bonilla-Webster emphasizes that showing support means having that conversation.

“We look out for each other all the time, no matter what time of year it is. Since it’s Pride, hopefully there’s a lot more love and recognition, but we want that to always happen,” Bonilla-Webster said.