Thank you for your recent coverage of the reported increase of suicide completions within the LGBTQ Mormon youth community (The Ghost Children of Mormon Country and Suicides or Not, LDS Is Harming LGBT Youth).
Some of the good-hearted people in Utah reacted to these reports as many of us did, with shock and resolve to make a difference. Because of heightened awareness, there is now an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention pilot program to help families support their LGBTQ children in the heart of Mormon Utah and the home to Brigham Young University, Provo. We chose Provo as the site for this pilot because of many anecdotal reports from local therapists and service providers of an increase in need for professional services as well as to show that if we can be successful in Provo in helping LGBTQ youth, we can be successful anywhere.
Many have noted the correlation between Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announcements about children from same-sex families being excluded from certain church ceremonies as the start of an increase in crisis reports from youth. Adding to a toxic atmosphere has been the backlash from LGBTQ affirming persons in conflict with responses from church members defending the LDS stance. The result many of us have noticed is an increase in need for support, community, and in too many cases, emergency services for youth who are in suicidal crisis or are newly homeless.
The good news is that registered best practice programs like the Family Acceptance Project are not only helping to prevent suicide but also fit perfectly in a culture were family is highly valued. The lie that there needs to be a choice between church and child is one that we all work to debunk, with high LDS Church leaders more often helpful than harmful. Too often, though, I still hear parents of newly out LGBTQ LDS youth say disastrously hurtful things or see them kick their children out of the family home. As a parent. I can’t imagine wishing one of my children had never been born or saying that to them — but that is one of the more benign things that are said most every day to children who dare to share their LGBTQ identity with a parent in Utah.
So suicide prevention for LGBTQ LDS youth in Provo is not surprising at all — it’s right where it needs to be. And it needs to be in every area where queer youth are at risk of not being safe. Parents, families, church leaders can learn to be supportive, and they do. Stories from the Mama Dragons show exactly that, and are an example we work to share in the heart of what is known ironically as “Happy Valley.”
Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen
Continuum of Care for LGBTQ Youth