PHOENIX – Being a teenager is hard, there is no question about it. But there are added complications for LGBTQ youth.
According to a 2021 national survey on LGBTQ youth mental health conducted by The Trevor Project, 48% wanted counseling from a mental health professional but did not receive it.
A nonprofit in the Valley is working hard to change that.
A New Leaf over the last five decades has provided assistance to families, children and adults in overcoming the challenges they face.
For roughly the past five years, a New Leaf has offered services through a program known as the Prism Group.
The group is led by mental and behavioral health specialists and offered at both their Mesa and Glendale clinics.
Adrienne Gibson is a clinical director at A New Leaf and has helped lead the Prism Group.
She described it as an outreach group for the LGBTQ community and their allies.
“A lot of times group can be psychoeducational, they can be therapeutic and they can be supportive,” Gibson told KTAR News 92.3 FM.
The groups are typically focused on later-elementary schooled kids and early adolescents. They work to create a supportive environment as the teens navigate challenges.
“They’re trying to figure out who they are, what they’re about, what they want to be known for, who they’re going to be when they grow up,” Gibson said.
She added they have additional hurdles to overcome when finding themselves.
Going through the journey of discovering who you are can be traumatic if someone isn’t supported, especially when it comes to gender identity and sexual orientation.
“I think one of the things they struggle the most with is the trauma that can be created,” Gibson said. “Because they can be harassed, they can be bullied in regards to that.”
Gibson believes the best thing to do for a teen that is part of the LGBTQ community is to support them and help prevent any shame or bullying that could be associated with it.
Formation and growth as an adolescent are said to be much more successful when an adolescent has an understanding support system to help them through whatever they are struggling with.
That’s why A New Leaf has also created school-based services that include Mesa Public Schools, the largest school district in the state.
They also have counselors in schools based in the West Valley.
Gibson calls it a “barrier breaker” to help get youth connected to counseling and other services they may not have known were available.
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