June is LGBT Pride month, a commemoration of the struggle for gay rights. It honors the Stonewall uprising that took place in New York City in June, 1969
"Asking youth to accept negative experiences as the only coping strategy potentially exacerbates stress," claims researchers at the University of Arizona.
The It Gets Better projects was launched by Dan Savage and Terry Miller in 2010, in response to a chilling number of suicides by LGBT teens facing bullying. Since then, it’s added more than 50,000 videos from people of all walks of life.
But a new study suggests imagining a better future may not be an ideal coping mechanism for struggling teens—and may, in fact, do more harm than good.
University of Arizona professor Russell Toomey and his team examined profiles of 245 lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) young adults to see how they coped with sexual-minority stress during adolescence. Three common strategies emerged: Cognitive strategies (the “It Gets Better” approach), alternative-seeking strategies (changing social circles or schools), and “LGB-specific” strategies (joining a gay-straight alliance).
Young people who sought out LGB-specific strategies reported better psychosocial adjustment and were more likely to graduate high school. Cognitive and alternative-seeking strategies were associated with poorer adjustment, higher incidents of depression and lower self-esteem. Alternative-seeking strategies were even linked to lower likelihood of finishing high school.
“Our findings question the ’It Gets Better’ narrative that’s been given to LGB youth,” said Toomey. “Asking youth to accept negative experiences as the only coping strategy potentially exacerbates stress.”
Alternative-seeking strategies, like changing schools, put the onus on the victim, says Toomey.
“The child who has a different sexuality or gender identity expression is then labeled as the problem instead of really addressing the issue,” he explains. “Alternative-seeking strategies involve finding new spaces to thrive in, rather than coping with the space that you’re in… Our results find that that’s associated with more depressive symptoms, less self-esteem and less satisfaction in life.”
“Everybody needs support, and it’s really important, particularly in adolescence, to find other people who are like you, since you are going through, developmentally, a stage where you may frequently think that you’re the only one that’s experiencing whatever you’re experiencing. Having a support group where other people look like you and experience the same thing as you is really important for health, well-being, development and sense of identity.”
Toomey’s findings, based on data from San Francisco State University’s Family Acceptance Project, will be published in the Journal of Homosexuality.
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Praise for Healing the Brain
"A book that can help medical professionals as well as the general public, Mr. Balog has tackled a subject that is complex and he makes it quite approachable. It has added and enriched my own practice of medicine by making me more aware of issues not often discussed in medical circles."--Peter Paganussi, MD, Virginia
"Author David Balog has done an excellent job of creating a book for educators (or anyone working with youth) that explains the complicated workings of the brain in an easy to understand manner. Balog goes on to discuss various types of trauma and how the adolescent brain responds to trauma such as depression, stress, addiction, risk taking, PTSD, etc. LGBT/Q youth may experience trauma in ways majority youth often do not. The author shares important coping strategies....I highly recommend this book!"--Carol Dopp, M.Ed.
"David Balog understands the strain of alienation, so he tackles this subject with compassion and concern. Mr. Balog draws on his knowledge of brain science to give readers insight into what happens to young people under tremendous stress, and he offers practical advice on how to help and cope."--Gary Cottle, author
"Provides comfort and learning to the reader. Flows easily from one topic to the next and knits tidbits of information together in a unifying mosaic. Easy to read. Difficult to put down." --Michael J. Colucciello, Jr., New York State Dept. of Mental Health researcher, retired.
"Well researched, fleshed out with relevant case histories, this book packs a lot of solid information into its 152 pages. Written in an engaging style for the layman, it covers a wide range of topics. One learns a great deal about the biology of stress, particularly the vulnerability of the brain in the pre-adult years. This book also provides a glossary of key brain science terms and a listing of organizations serving the LGBT /Q community and resources on the brain."--Gary Bordzuk, librarian