While significant gains have been made in raising awareness about the challenges faced by LGBTQ-identified young people in navigating familial and community stigma and accessing queer-friendly health and mental health services, these youth continue to experience discrimination and misunderstanding in many mental health settings. The “Our Space” program of Sunny Hills Services (Hayward, CA) provides a safe environment for LGBTQ youth to talk about their difficulties and successes. Our Space also advocates with providers for improved service delivery.
In 2014, we collaborated with Our Space on a unique digital storytelling project. Over the course of four days, we brought LGBTQ-identified young people together to share stories, take and collect photos and video clips, and create short videos. Our Space staff provided a vital support role, intervening when youth participants needed extra emotional assistance. Staff also developed a short video dedicated to the youth, to contextualize the collection of stories.
Following the workshop, Our Space worked with two of the storytellers to develop a set of training materials for use in sharing the stories as tools to train mental health providers about the unique and diverse needs and experiences of LGBTQ youth. These materials are being distributed and implemented across Alameda County, to improve the response of area mental health provides to the specific issues that LGBTQ young people encounter in their effort to find the support and health and mental health services they need.