Through a Kicking The Stigma Action Grant, Indiana Youth Group was able to add a counseling program to the services it provides local LGBTQ youth – with the goal of reducing the alarming suicide rate among the population with which it works.
According to the Trevor Project:
- LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers
- 45 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year (including more than 50 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth)
- 37 percent of LGBTQ youth reported their home was affirming
The Trevor Project also found having at least one accepting adult can reduce the risk of suicide in LGBTQ youth by 40 percent.
So with those statistics in mind, Indiana Youth Group applied for and earned a Kicking The Stigma Action Grant to create the Help Us Grow Stronger (HUGS) program, which provides accessible short-term mental health counseling to LGBTQ youth ages 12-24. The HUGS program, which enrolled its first client on June 1 and already has a waitlist, is aimed at helping youth process identity development, stress, anxiety and depression, as well as how to navigate what it means to come out and be in health relationships.
"Having the support of the Colts was a game-changer for us," Drake said. "It allowed us to start a new program, but it also allowed us to be intentional about it being counseling services.
"And a macro level, to see that the Colts are coming along IYG in this journey to support LGBTQ youth, I think this sends a bigger message to a lot of organizations — the community needs to see this. Kicking The Stigma is real. And we have to get past all the things and start working together to do what's best for these young people."
Indiana Youth Group has provided services to LGBTQ youth for 35 years, including basic needs (food, water, clothing, showers), housing (it has the state's largest housing program – one in four youth who come out as LGBTQ experience homelessness) and plenty of forms of support. In 2021, Indiana Youth Group served over 3,000 meals and engaged with over 2,000 LGBTQ+ youth.
"Imagine being a 15-year-old," Drake said. "You should be able to exist, be supported through your journey, have the support you need — like, that's all young people really want."
The programs and services offered by Indiana Youth Group are exactly what Drake, who proudly identifies as a queer Black woman, wished she had growing up. She hopes the HUGS program can be a "beacon of hope" for LGBTQ youth, and is another way for LGBTQ youth to have a supportive adult in their lives.
"Knowing that one form of support can reduce suicide rates by 40 percent, for me, it propels me to want to do more, to work with people like the Colts to make sure we can be innovative in our programs and services," Drake said. "I think for a lot of us here, we know what it's like to be a queer youth. ... These are our lived experiences and anything we could possibly do to help these young people, we're going to try to figure out way to do it. That's what we're here for."
Applications for Kicking The Stigma Action Grants are open through June 17. To apply and for more information, click here.