By Jillian Diamond
As part of the University of Maryland’s Mental Health Week, the Counseling Center held a discussion on mental health in the LGBTQ+ community at Marie Mount Hall on Tuesday, October 8. The event’s aim was to discuss the importance of social support and interpersonal relationships within the community, and how they affect the mental state and well-being of LGBTQ+ people.
A few personnel from the Washington, D.C. branch of Free Mom Hugs attended the discussion, promoting the importance of familial relationships for LGBTQ+ people and how they can both positively and negatively affect them. Free Mom Hugs, founded by an Oklahoma woman named Sara Cunningham, is an organization made up of parents and allies of LGBTQ+ people that aims to help those in the community who have been rejected by their biological families for their orientation or gender identity. The D.C. branch has already begun working with UMD, attending LGBTQ+-oriented events such as Quelcome earlier in the year and trying to offer support to the on-campus community.
“A few schools in the Maryland area don’t even have [LGBTQ+] centers, which blew my mind and made me sad,” said Diane Seltzer Torre, a Free Mom Hugs representative who attended the discussion. For Seltzer Torre, who is a mother to a gay son, being a good ally to LGBTQ+ individuals is very important, and it caused her to join the organization. She stated that FMH wants to not only help members of the community on campus who are out, but also those who do not have the support they need to come out. “What about the kids in their dorms that didn’t come to Quelcome?” she asked. “How do we reach them?”
Mental health is a hot-button issue in the LGBTQ+ community. While 7-16% of the population deals with mental illness, the number is three times higher for LGBTQ+ individuals, according to research done by the Trevor Project. Suicide is the leading cause of death for members of the community aged 10 to 24, and younger members whose families are unsupportive are eight times more likely to engage in self-harm than others. But support from fellow LGBTQ+ people, along with allies and organizations like FMH, can reduce these numbers significantly. At the discussion, attendees talked with each other about the relationships in their life and how they affected their mental health as both LGBTQ+ people and allies.
The LGBT Equity Center is aiming to create more inclusive and accessible programs so that they can more actively help students struggling to find their place in the community. On Wednesday, October 16, they hosted an event for International Pronouns Day – “Pronouns and Pizza,” where trans and cis students alike discussed and celebrated their experiences.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of the LGBT Equity Center at UMD’s Facebook page.
Jillian Diamond is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.