During Children’s Mental Health Week, let’s make sure we remember the (extra) needs of our LGBTQ youth whether they are within our families, schools or communities. There are still so many struggling within lockdown and general pandemic effects, that need care and attention now and plans for later as much as anyone does and in some cases, more so.
There may be many who have spent and continue to spend lockdown in difficult situations without being able to access the much-needed support they would normally have in school or within their local community. It is therefore more important than ever that tools, resources and strategies are in place and offered to all students as this will ensure their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing at this time and during the following months.
These strategies can be adapted to school and Zoom sessions as well as helping in the home. They are also relevant for all students as allyship is important too.
Positive LGBTQ+ role models: This is important for all students to see past and present positive LGBTQ+ role models who are amazing people and also happen to identify as LGBTQ. Students can explore how the role models live their lives in or out of the public arena, with or without the use of their labels and any key lessons from them. This can be a great boost to their mental health to know they are not alone.
Kindness: Acknowledging the kindnesses given and received will encourage more in our lives. This is important for LGBTQ+ students to acknowledge/ accept that kindness exists around and towards them no matter who they are and even better for exactly who they are.
Knowing themselves and what they need: This is an extension of kindness where the individual can ensure they are protecting themselves through acceptance and understanding. This comes from self-awareness and knowing which people and situations are positive for them, which aren’t and how to access support and engage the strategies they need in those moments. Can they list their positives and how they enhance their family, community or more.
Resilience: This is key for everyone and building emotional resilience can be encouraged and supported throughout the whole school community with teachers modelling what this looks like and how they practice it. Parents too can play a big part in this to discuss and show methods to help themselves and their children through difficult situations.
Notice the breath: Our breath always takes us to the present moment and this can be used on its own or with other practices. We are able to see ourselves in that breath and who we are, notice it, accept it and move to the next moment.
If more is needed then it can lead into STOP. S = Stop: whatever you’re doing, just pause T = Take a breath and follow it coming in and going out. If it helps, say ‘in’ as you’re breathing in and ‘out’ as you let it go. O = Observe your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Name them if that will help and observe how the body feels. P = Proceed mindfully. Is there something you need to move into the next moment? Can a chat with a friend help? Do you need a drink of water? Will fresh air help?
Develop and use self-soothing techniques: These can be external or internal ones which can help in the moment to create space at the same time as offering comfort and support to the individual. Maybe stroking the arm before going into a particular area of the school may help, giving oneself a hug at certain points of the day or simply speaking kindly and positively to yourself throughout the day.
Show them how to love themselves: Which behaviours are self-loving and which ones may appear healthy in physical, mental and emotional arms but aren’t necessarily supporting their growth. Parents and teachers can highlight this in how they behave and respond to events.
All of the above strategies of using Mindfulness and Compassion in general throughout schools/zoom sessions, as well as specifically with LGBTQ+ students, bring many benefits to all involved.
Here are a few:
Improved levels of self-esteem and self-worth
Kinder and more positive atmosphere around and within the school community
Improved performance levels through students being able to be their true selves
Better behaviour and more positive interactions
Reduced levels of bullying especially Homophobic, Bi-phobic and Trans-phobic (HBT)