Voices

Psychosocial support for LGBT youth from a few groups

From

Leow Yangfa, Deputy Executive Director, Oogachaga

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Published: 10:21 PM, April 30, 2015

I refer to the letter, “LGBT youth at higher risk of suicide, more support needed” (April 29).

Oogachaga is a community-based counselling, support and personal development agency working with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) and questioning individuals, couples and families.

Based on our professional engagement with clients through our counselling services and outreach programmes, we observe that LGBT persons may experience multiple levels of discrimination in the form of ignorance, hostility, shame and even hatred, which can be termed summarily as homophobia and transphobia.

The absence of affirmative and supportive resources for LGBT-identified youth may create a sense of isolation which, in turn, affects their self-confidence and sense of identity.

Possibly, some may experience this so intensely that they turn to self-harm or suicide as a way coping with the pain.

Additionally, international research has also shown that one’s suicide risk increases with previous experience of suicide attempts, or exposure to the suicidal behaviour of those around them.

At a recent panel discussion facilitated by SGRainbow, a group for young gay, bisexual and questioning men, an issue was raised about the lack of LGBT-affirmative support in schools and how this may account for the higher incidence of suicidal behaviour in LGBT students.

Along with The Purple Alliance, a group of Singaporeans committed to supporting LGBT individuals, and the Pelangi Pride Centre, a local LGBT community and resource library, there exist a small number of groups that cater for the psychosocial support needs of such youth.

Service users’ feedback from these groups has indicated that a sense of safety and an LGBT-affirming stance are important considerations for choosing to contact an organisation or access a service.

To this end, Oogachaga provides skill-based training workshops to raise professional awareness of these issues, to help our fellow social service and healthcare workers become more confident in working with their LGBT and questioning clients.

We would also urge LGBT and questioning youth who are in distress, and their loved ones who may be concerned about warning signs, to reach out and seek appropriate professional support.