The early teens can be an incredibly difficult … and, well, awkward … time for youths – braces, hormones, those middle school dances where nobody knows how to act. It is time when kids are becoming young adults, social and academic pressure is mounting, all while they are trying to figure out who they are. And it can be especially difficult for LGBTQ+ youth, who might not have the same level of support as their peers.
That is why Larissa Hul-Galasek, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and Abigail Hudson-Crim, a licensed clinical social worker, have teamed up to provide The Rainbow Village day camp – a safe space for LGBTPQNB2S+ youth, ages 11 to 14, to connect, have fun together and provide support for each other.
“It’s a really important time developmentally for this age group,” Hul-Galasek told the Outpost in a recent phone interview. “Youth are coming into themselves and creating an identity and independence from home and [their] caregivers. They’re also at high risk during that time for substance use, alcohol use and suicide.”
Mental health issues, depression and anxiety among children and teens has been on the rise countrywide over the last few years and became even worse during the pandemic, when young people were forced to be isolated from their peers.
And these risks are even higher for LGBTQ+ youths. A recent national survey on LGBTQ mental health published by the Trevor Project found that 50 percent of LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 17 had seriously considered suicide in the past year and 18% had attempted suicide. The rates were much higher among transgender youth within this group, with one in five trans youth reportedly attempting suicide, compared to one in 10 of their cisgender peers.
When pre-teens and teens are experiencing these types of difficulties, they tend to turn to each other for support, Hul-Galasek explained, as opposed to looking for support from their parents or other family members, like a younger child would. Some LGBTQ+ youths also may not have a supportive family or don’t feel comfortable coming out. They also may be afraid to come out to their friends or peers, for fear of ridicule or bullying.
Providing these kids with an opportunity to connect with each other can help alleviate those feelings of depression or anxiety and help kids build a support network, “so that they know that they belong, they matter and that they have power,” Hul-Galasek said.
Hul-Galasek and Hudson-Crim met when they worked for the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Child and Family Services , where they both worked primarily with child welfare cases. They both have a deep care for helping Humboldt County youth. Eventually they both moved on to establish their own private practices and came up with the idea to create this event for LGBTQ+ youth, Hul-Galasek said.
The all-day event will be held on Saturday, July 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Redwood Park and will include lunch and prizes. Activities will include hiking, crafting – creating things like pronoun bracelets or keyrings and pride magnets, private journaling time and guided conversations. Hul-Galasek said that the participants will have an opportunity to anonymously place questions or topics in a jar for conversation prompts. The idea is for the kids to decide what they want to talk about, Hul-Galasek said, and to be able to discuss some of the difficult topics, like depression, discrimination, drugs and alcohol and sex.
If you are interested in participating, you can find more information on rates and sign up at this link. If funds are an issue for you, you can sign up to be considered for a scholarship. Hul-Galasek said that there will be three to five scholarships available to cover the cost of the group. If any parents have extra funds and want to help out, there is also the option to contribute to the scholarship fund. Depending on how many folks contribute, there may be more than five scholarships available, Hul-Galasek said.
If this event goes well, Hul-Galasek and Hudson-Crim plan to hold more in the future. They also wanted to remind the community of the other wonderful LGBTQ+ resources in Humboldt. There are several groups that focus specifically on supporting queer and trans youth, including the The RAVEN Project, Queer Humboldt and Open Door Community Health Centers gender affirming services. Hul-Galasek also offers LGBTQ+ counseling and gender affirming letters of support for surgery through her private practice, LHG Counseling.