The University of Indianapolis Student Counseling Center, along with UIndy Pride, co-hosted the first “Home For Break” workshop. The goal of the workshop, held Nov. 29, was to mentor LGBTQ+ students returning home from school while on winter break and potentially facing unaccepting family members, said co-chair of the UIndy Pride program Onyx Cole who acted as the moderator at the Home For Break event.
Cole explained the idea for the workshop came from the student counseling center, as they wanted to get more involved and show support for the LGBTQ community on campus.
“Well, I was already working with them for a while just because they wanted to know the best ways to connect with the LGBTQ [students] and everything,” Cole said. “They messaged me asking if this was a good point to come across and if I wanted to be a part of it, and I said, ‘Yes, sure.’ So it’s to see what’s the best way to help.”
UIndy Pride is a registered student run organization according to UIndy’s Website and hosts weekly meetings in hopes to provide a safe space for all UIndy students. Meetings are held every Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the basement of Schwitzer, and, according to Cole, everyone is allowed to come.
“It’s mainly for LGBTQ youth just to hang out and chill and just have a community… It’s pretty open,” Cole said.
The value of having an affirming and safe campus is important for the safety of students. According to the 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ+ Youth Mental Health, conducted by The Trevor Project, it was reported that of the LGBTQ+ youth that have attempted suicide in the past year, 17% found school not an affirming environment and 16% said the same for home. According to The Trevor Project’s website, the non profit organization was founded in 1998 and focuses on research and the prevention of suicide in LGBTQ+ youth. The Trevor Project survey also reports that the suicide attempt rate for LGBTQ+ youth with very unaccepting environments is at 21% while those with very accepting environments are at 8%. Overall, The Trevor Project’s research indicates LGBTQ+ youth with affirming home and schools have lower rates of attempted suicides. Cole said that it is important to have a safe space with people of the same sexuality or identity to have people to talk to.
“It’s always a big deal to have a safe space for anyone,” Cole said. “But for LGBTQ, it’s easy for people to not realize that there’s big issues with them or that words can be that harmful if you say it offhandedly.”
With the success of the recent workshop, the Student Counseling Center and UIndy Pride plan to work together on more events like Home for Break which will address many different topics, said Cole. There are hopes of making smaller workshops a regular thing, Cole said, where people are able to come and go as they need.
The Student Counseling Center has made it their overall goal to provide an affirming environment for all students, especially those who face prejudice and discrimination explained Director of the Student Counseling Center Kelly Miller.
“We contribute to the campus wide mission which is to be an affirming place, a place where we really develop a culture of caring, inclusiveness and belonging so our clinicians are trained to be affirming of identities,” Miller said. “We receive continuing education regularly and addressing the mental health issues of minority and marginalized populations, such as the LGBTQ+ population… We offer all kinds of support groups, workshops, individual work as well as we work to address the systemic prejudice by providing campus right programming, training and presentations. We do a lot of partnering with other organizations across campus and outside organizations.”
The Counseling Center offers programs and services geared towards an individual’s needs as the importance of a safe environment is critical to, not only the LGBTQ+ community, but all students, Miller said. There are programs for training people to create safe and affirming environments, she said. Giving people a safe environment to acknowledge their feelings is important for mental health, according to Miller.
“Particularly also with the LGBTQ+ population that makes it even more important to recognize that our space is affirming, caring, supportive, and that’s really important when historically you know identities have been discriminated against so openly and continuously,” Miller said.
It is shown in the research done by The Trevor Project that these events becoming more routine along with the involvement of student counselors will greatly impact the LGBTQ+ community here on campus. According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth who report the presence of trusted adults at their school have higher levels of self-esteem and access to supportive peers is protective towards anxiety and depression.
The Trevor Project has a toll-free 24/7 crisis hotline, which can be contacted at 866-488-7386 for any mental health emergency.