Family Acceptance Project Family Education Materials Designated 1st “Best Practice” Resources For Suicide Prevention For LGBT Youth By National Registry

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With media reports of suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth becoming increasingly common, communities are grappling with the urgent need to identify interventions to prevent suicide and suicidal behavior among LGBT youth. However, until today, no “Best Practices” have been identified or designated to help reduce vulnerability and risk among LGBT children, youth or adults.

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Dr. Ann Haas, Director of Prevention Projects for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: “For the past decade, Dr. Ryan and her team have undertaken foundational research on the role of families and related social institutions in contribut

With media reports of suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth becoming increasingly common, communities are grappling with the urgent need to identify interventions to prevent suicide and suicidal behavior among LGBT youth. However, until today, no “Best Practices” have been identified or designated to help reduce vulnerability and risk among LGBT children, youth or adults.

Although recent media attention has focused primarily on the impact of bullying on self-harm behavior. suicide is typically the result of many interacting factors including depression, substance use and despair, in addition to environmental stressors. These complex interactions underscore the need for comprehensive suicide prevention strategies and interventions to change the environment at the systems level. For LGBT youth, family systems are especially important.

For the past decade, the Family Acceptance Project (FAP) at SF State University, under the direction of Dr. Caitlin Ryan, has been studying the impact of family acceptance and rejection on suicide risk among LGBT youth. Published findings from these studies point to the critical role of families in both contributing to and protecting against suicidal behavior and risk among LGBT young people. FAP’s multi-disciplinary team has been developing resources, interventions and strategies to help diverse families reduce risk and to promote their LGBT children’s well-being.

The first of these resources – a multi-lingual, multi-cultural series of family education booklets – Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Families Support their LGBT Children – have been designated as the first “Best Practice” resources for suicide prevention for LGBT youth and young adults by the national Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention.

Coordinated by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and known as the “SPRC/AFSP Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention,” the registry designates and maintains an expert-reviewed compendium of approved “best practices” to prevent suicide, all of which address specific aims of the national suicide prevention plan and have met objective criteria based on accuracy, safety, likelihood of meeting suicide prevention objectives, and adherence to prevention guidelines.

Available in specific cultural versions in English, Spanish and Chinese, Supportive Families, Healthy Children education booklets were developed based on extensive research and direct feedback from families, LGBT youth and the providers who serve them. The booklets help ethnically and religiously diverse families understand how specific reactions to their children’s LGBT identity both contribute to and protect against risk for suicide and related health problems. Research-based guidance for families is depicted non-judgmentally using personal stories, lists of behaviors that both protect against and are related to high risk for suicide and other serious health problems, and approaches to decrease family conflict and to increase support. FAP’s core research and family education materials were supported by The California Endowment, a health foundation dedicated to expanding access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities.

Said, Dr. Caitlin Ryan, Director of the Family Acceptance Project: “Our work is grounded in rigorous research and rooted in the cultural experiences and values of scores of diverse LGBT youth and families. So these family education booklets resonate for very diverse families and help them decrease rejecting behaviors which our research shows -- though motivated by care and concern – instead contribute to serious health risks for LGBT young people. For example, our research shows that common rejecting behaviors such as trying to prevent LGBT youth from learning about their identity, not allowing them to have gay friends or not letting them participate in an LGBT youth group are related to a 9-times greater likelihood of attempted suicide.”

In discussing the importance of FAP’s family education materials, Dr. Ann Haas, Director of Prevention Projects for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, noted: “For the past decade, Dr. Ryan and her team have undertaken foundational research on the role of families and related social institutions in contributing to protective factors and risk for suicidal behavior among LGBT young people. They have turned that research into powerful prevention tools for diverse families. Used in programs across the country, these tools will save lives.”

More than 100,000 copies of the family education booklets have been disseminated across the U.S. and other countries for use in schools, primary care and behavioral health programs, foster care and juvenile justice services, family service agencies, suicide prevention programs, and in pastoral counseling and faith-based organizations. Additionally, the booklets are used in colleges, universities and professional training programs and by government agencies.
Agencies and community groups that use the Family Acceptance Project’s “Best Practice” materials and family intervention approach report substantial positive changes in prevention and practice:

  •     Jerry Peterson, coordinator for a Contra Costa County, CA mental health support initiative for LGBT youth said: “FAP’s research is the cornerstone of our work in Contra Costa County. These booklets are a critical education and prevention tool that not only help prevent depression and suicide, but also help prevent substance abuse, sexual health risks and expulsion and removal from the home. FAP’s inherently respectful approach strengthens families and helps build a gay or transgender child’s sense of self-worth – in the context of their families. This is especially important for LGBT youth of color.”
  •     Greater Boston PFLAG President, Stan Griffith, whose chapters have worked with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and other groups since 2007 to disseminate FAP’s family intervention approach and materials across the state noted: “The Family Acceptance Project’s research and family support strategies that show the crucial role of family acceptance have caused us to totally rethink the way we approach our work. We now know that it’s essential for every parent – and every prospective parent -- to have this information. Supportive Families, Healthy Children is an indispensable part of every individual or group conversation with parents and caregivers and with professionals who provide counseling, health and other services to children, youth and families.”
  •     Theresa Nolan, Division Director of Green Chimneys NYC, said: “The Family Acceptance Project has pioneered a culturally grounded approach to help diverse families support their LGBT children. In NYC, FAP’s research-based strategies, family education booklets and other tools are helping us implement one of the first family intervention programs for LGBT homeless youth. Suicide prevention is just one aspect of the support that these life-saving tools help us provide.”

Supportive Families, Healthy Children is available for download on the FAP website at: http://familyproject.sfsu.edu/publications Printed copies are available for distribution from the Family Acceptance Project in orders of any size. Lower literacy and faith-based versions are in development. FAP provides on-site training on using these materials and FAP’s research-based supportive family intervention model and other resources and tools. Contact fap@sfsu.edu to obtain printed versions and for information on consultation and training.

Information on Supportive Families, Healthy Children’s “Best Practice” designation is available on the Best Practices Registry’s webpage hosted by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center at http://www.sprc.org .

ATTRIBUTION OF THE STATISTICS FOR YOUTH SUICIDE: PEDIATRICS Vol. 123 No. 1 January 1, 2009 pp. 346 -352 (doi: 10.1542/peds.2007-3524); Article: Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young Adults, AUTHORS: Caitlin Ryan, PhD, ACSWa, David Huebner, PhD, MPHb, Rafael M. Diaz, PhDa, Jorge Sanchez, BAa

About the Family Acceptance Project

The Family Acceptance Project is a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that is designed to: 1) improve the health, mental health, and well-being of LGBT children and adolescents; 2) strengthen and help ethnically and religiously diverse families to support their LGBT children; 3) help LGBT youth stay in their homes to prevent homelessness and the need for custodial care in the foster care and juvenile justice systems; 4) inform public policy and family policy; and 5) develop a new evidence-based, family model of wellness, prevention, and care to promote well-being and decrease risk for LGBT youth. For more information, please visit: http://familyproject.sfsu.edu/

CONTACT: Cathy Renna, cathy (at) rennacommunications (dot) com, 917-757-6123

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