On June 29th, ISGMH hosted its second Annual Symposium entitled “The State of LGBTQ Youth Health and Wellbeing: Strengthening Schools and Families to Build Resilience.” The symposium was organized by ISGMH, along with the Center for Prevention Implementation Methodology, Advocates for Youth, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and supported by the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance. The event focused on the importance of school and family support for LGBTQ youth.
Dr. Francesca Gaiba started the symposium by welcoming over 120 guests that included researchers, leaders in LGBTQ health, advocates and community members. Dr. C Hendricks Brown presented an overview of the goals of the symposium and the working group meeting that followed on June 30.
Keynote speaker Dr. David Purcell, JD, Deputy Director for Behavioral and Social Science, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, spoke about how the CDC addresses youth health education and disease statistics (including HIV) among persons under 25. Dr. Purcell rounded out his keynote address with a discussion about interventions and steps that can be taken to protect and support the LGBTQ youth population.
Following the symposium’s keynote speech, Dr. Guillermo (Willy) Prado, Dr. Dorothy Espelage, and Dr. Brian Mustanski each presented their research on family/parent interventions for sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth, bullying and violence amongst SGM youth, and the effects of parenting on SGM adolescent health, respectively.
-Dr. Brian Mustanski
“Waiting until high school to talk about bullying and homophobic slurs is too late.”
-Dr. Dorothy Espelage
“Parents are important for survival!”
–Dr. Guillermo (Willy) Prado
Youth leaders from the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health then hosted a panel with speakers Aisha Chaudhri, Elon Sloan, and Alloíza Mari. Elon Sloan and Alloíza Mari were asked to share their reactions to the research presentations and noted they can sometimes feel a disconnect between research and the lived experiences of LGBTQ youth. The comments from Elon Sloan and Alloíza Mari prompted a discussion between symposium presenters and audience members on the dynamic relationship between research and advocacy. Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth, concluded the symposium by communicating the mission of both activists and researchers is to improve the lives of SGM people.
“Behaviors have high risk, people are not high risk.”
– Aisha Chaudhri
“Even if they seem like ‘unhealthy’ coping mechanisms, they’re still coping mechanisms and its better than suicide.”
“I don’t think anybody says ‘I just have gay issues, my substance abuse is gay. It really simplifies the ways that LGBT youth talk about themselves.”
The event concluded with a reception in the courtyard of the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law.
A working group meeting was scheduled following the Symposium. The goals for the working group were to assess our knowledge base about LGBTQ youth health (including HIV, substance use, mental health and suicide, violence, victimization, and wellbeing) in the community and within families. Additional goals of the working group were to identify strategies for interventions that build LGBTQ youth’s resilience and/or reduce their risks. Eventually, this information will be used to write a research and action agenda for the coming years, and disseminate it as a white paper and journal article.