According to the Center for Disease Control, a nationally representative study of adolescents in grades 712 found that LGBTQ youth were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers.
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For over two years, the Chicago based non-profit Hope for the Day has used music and the arts as tools to fight depression and suicide in people aged 10-35 from a wide variety of backgrounds. The organization works with musicians and arts groups to provide programs and events as defense mechanisms against suicide.
Founder and Executive Director Jonny Boucher recognized the devastating statistics among LGBTQ youth and wanted the organization reach out to the community. "It's an enormous problem," he told the WCT. "It's just sad. I don't know how these kids are making it through high school."
On February 13, alongside MB Financial Bank, MaleLifePartner.com and the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Hope for Change hosted "Love Gives me Hope" at the Lakeview branch of MB Financial. Speakers at the packed event included State Representative Greg Harris and 44th ward Alderman Tom Tunney.
Hope for the Day Board President and MB Financial Banking Center Manager Len Mayersky pointed out to the WCT that a number of people in the audience were there because someone in their families had committed suicide. "They're displaced," he said. "And half the teen population is LGBTQ."
"When we first started we were just focused on youth," Boucher told the audience. "But we're taking a leap of faith and saying there's no limitation to where we can go. We want to make sure that people in the LGBTQ community are not forgotten."
Boucher pledged that the organization would work with an increased number of artists and musicians with a focus on attracting the LGBTQ community. They are also shooting a suicide awareness film in Naperville made for teens by teens. The Hope Defined Project is a part of the effort to offer prevention and hope through creative expression. "Our goal is to show that everyone is affected," Boucher said. "At the end of the day, we are all together in this fight."
Hope for the Day has also created a new coffee named "Sip of Hope." Boucher promised that the drink will represent people who will never live a life hindered by labels, boundaries or limitations. "This coffee will represent you and everyone else out there that wants to live the life that they desire." Boucher said.
Harriswho co-sponsored the very first law mandating suicide prevention training in schools in Illinois for grades 7-12noted that people do not realize how deep and wide the problem in the United States. "Suicide is the second leading cause of death for our young people. Every day 30,000 LGBTQ kids in this country attempt to take their lives. It's a pretty sobering statistic."
Harris urged the audience to pay attention to the young people in their lives. "Just realize that sometimes young people are profoundly upset, depressed or they need some help. Connect them with services. :et them know that they are not alone."
Tunney added that so much of the work he, Harris and many of the evening's attendees had been doing revolved around creating a safe place for LGBTQ youth, middle-aged people and seniors in Chicago. He maintained that the expansion of services for LGBTQ youth throughout the city was also a priority for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"It's a struggle, sometimes, even in a community that's accepting," he acknowledged. "We're here because of diversity. We're here because we want to be around people that are not just like us but are different from us. I think we've got much more in common than we have apart as a society.
Off stage, Harris told the WCT that suicide is the first leading cause of death of LGBTQ students and that eradication of bullyingone of the quintessential devils of the tragedyhas been a tough fight. "[Rep] Kelly Cassidy had a bill on bullying that was defeated when some Republicans and some Conservative Democrats pulled out because they didn't believe that we should address LGBTQ issues," he said. "Anti-bullying was fine unless you said the word gay or lesbian."
For more information go to www.hftd.org .
1 Hope for the Day Board President and MB Financial Banking Center Manager Len Mayersky speaks to the audiences about the organization at the LOve Gives Me Hope suicide awareness event February 13 at the Lakeview branch of MB Financial Bank.
2 Hope for the Day Founder and Executive Director Jonny Boucher addresses the audience at the Love Gives Me Hope suicide awareness event February 13 at the Lakeview branch of MB Financial Bank.
3 State Representative Greg Harris discusses the need for LGBTQ suicide awareness at the Love Gives Me Hope event February 13 at the Lakeview branch of MB Financial Bank.
4 Alderman Tom Tunney lays out new plans for increased LGBTQ youth services at the Love Gives Me Hope event February 13 at the Lakeview branch of MB Financial Bank.
5 (L to R) State Representative Greg Harris, Hope for the Day Founder and Executive Director Jonny Boucher and Alderman Tom Tunney