LGBTQ+ Youth Mental Health Needs
We sat down with Danie Eagleton, Wellspring’s Chief Clinical Officer, for an open and candid discussion about mental health care needs for LGBTQ+ youth.
Eagleton is leading the development of a new Wellspring Family Services behavioral health clinic focused on serving LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth and families. The clinic features practitioners with life experience and clinical skills in assisting those who have encountered cultural and/or systemic discrimination.
Q: What are some of the challenges LGBTQ+ youth face today?
A: In terms of acceptance, there are still so many spaces that are not safe. This could be classrooms, school programs, groups outside of their home, or it could be their home. LGBTQ+ youth who are not supported in their identity have a disproportionately high rate of homelessness.
Q: Why is it important to have a clinic dedicated to serving LGBTQ+ youth?
A: LGBTQ+ clients need a safe space where they can share their vulnerabilities and be their “true authentic selves.” In our region, there are very few family services agencies that provide specialized clinical programs for LGBTQ+ youth. A place where providers know how to serve this population—and may be of the population. Providers who have shared experiences with these folks. And, as evidenced by the national suicide rate, we know LGBTQ+ youth are in critical need of mental health support.
Q: What steps can parents and caregivers take to show support for LGBTQ+ children and young adults?
A: Listen! Talk and listen. Listen more than you talk. Re-emphasize your relationship and create a safe space for your child. You can get support from a variety of sources. The Trevor Project is an excellent place to begin your research. Learn to be an ally for your child. Show them that you are going to be there for them no matter what. Find a therapist you can talk to and ask questions, someone who can help you as a parent or caregiver. You’ll make mistakes along the way, and that is OK.
Q: What have been some of the most exciting changes you have seen regarding support for LGBTQ+ youth and what do you hope to see in the future?
A: The idea of community awareness with social media showing the importance that people exist and that we are doing this in a different way. Having those positive social messages make it OK. Gender-affirming care for youth is also becoming more prevalent. Schools are doing more to make students feel safe by discussing why we use pronouns and don’t use a deadname.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: There is help, there is assistance, and we want to be able to provide that. I worry about people who are on the streets and don’t have access to mental health care. Having access to care and a safe place is paramount. We must provide that for folks—that is how you save lives.
Danie Eagleton, LMHC, has over 16 years’ experience working in mental health services. She has worked as a counselor at both Lake Washington Technical College and Seattle Central Community College. Additionally, she worked in Student Development at Seattle University, Howard University, and Tufts University. She is passionate about providing care to BIPOC and LGBTQIA youth and working with Wellspring Family Services to create an intentional clinical community.