ANNOUNCES EXPANSION OF MENTAL HEALTH AND ANTI-BULLYING PROGRAMS
September 25, 2023, Hauppauge, NY – The LGBT Network announces the expansion of both its mental health services and anti-bullying programs in response to the growing surge of anti-LGBT rhetoric and anti-LGBT policies facing LGBT communities. The expansion is supported by a series of new grants as well as record support from the organization’s donors.
“Anti-LGBT rhetoric and anti-LGBT bills don’t happen in a vacuum,” says LGBT Network CEO Robert Vitelli. “The hate our LGBT youth hear in the media and in their schools is taking a toll on their mental health.” As of this summer, more than 530 anti-LGBTQ bills have been drafted and proposed in state legislatures and in Congress. Anti-LGBT state laws, hate crimes, rhetoric, and threats of violence are negatively impacting the mental health of LGBT youth, which is leading to more bullying (The Trevor Project, 2022). When LGBT youth are bullied more, they are at higher risk of substance abuse.
“We’re hearing the needs of LGBT youth and their families, and the LGBT Network is responding with expanded programs for mental health support and combatting bullying in our schools,” says Vitelli. “As a community-based organization, the LGBT Network is here as a home and a voice, and to be an advocate to create change. To counter anti-LGBT rhetoric, we need more mental health support. To counter hate in our schools and the resulting substance use as a coping mechanism, we need more anti-bullying programs. The LGBT Network is answering that call. Our job is to support LGBT youth, empower them, and fight back against hate,” says Vitelli.
MENTAL HEALTH & SUPPORT PROGRAMS GROW
The LGBT Network is growing its Mental Health Counseling program to serve more LGBT youth clients and their families. The expansion will provide additional support to combat reported anxiety and stress related to hearing and experiencing anti-LGBT rhetoric in the media, and even at home. 71% of LGBTQ youth — including 86% of trans and nonbinary youth — say state laws restricting the rights of LGBTQ young people have negatively impacted their mental health (The Trevor Project).
To counter substance use among LGBT youth related to bullying, the LGBT Network’s Mental Health Counseling program will also begin offering enhanced services targeting opioid addiction and prevention among the LGBT community, including outreach, counseling, and access to LGBT-affirming treatment, through a new grant from Suffolk County.
LAUNCHING MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES IN THE HAMPTONS
Thanks to a new major gift from the William E. and Maude S. Pritchard Charitable Trust, as well as support from hundreds of donors that attended the organization’s Hamptons Summer Kick-Off event providing record-breaking support, the LGBT Network is expanding its mental health counseling services to the Hamptons. It is the first time the LGBT Network is offering its mental health services at a brick-and-mortar location in the Hamptons, thereby increasing access to this requested and needed service.
MORE ANTI-BULLYING PROGRAMS, SAFER SCHOOLS AND DECREASED SUBSTANCE ABUSE
The LGBT Network is expanding its capacity to serve schools in the 2023-2024 school year to combat the surge of anti-LGBT bullying that’s on the rise. The organization is expanding its capacity to deliver more of its signature “LGBT 101” anti-bullying programs for students, while also offering more training programs for teachers and school staff.
To further empower LGBT youth, the LGBT Network is expanding programs for after-school GSA clubs with more leadership programs. Additionally, the LGBT Network will continue to offer its one-of-a-kind ‘GSA Mini Grant’ program that awards scholarships between $250 to $500 to local GSA clubs to support their anti-bullying efforts – a boon since most GSA clubs don’t receive a budget from their schools.
The expansion of anti-bullying programs is supported by the organization’s Hamptons Summer Kick-Off event as well as a new grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the second in a string of new federal grants awarded to the organization for its community-based outreach, education, and advocacy work.
“More anti-bullying programs will result in less bullying, and when we have less bullying, we will see less substance abuse among LGBT youth,” adds Vitelli.
REFLECTING ON HISTORY
The LGBT Network’s expansion of services to combat hate comes on the heels of recognizing 25 years since the brutal murder of gay teen Matthew Shepard in Wyoming. The violent murder galvanized Americans to acknowledge anti-LGBT hate and violence and move towards support. “We can’t wait for another murder or suicide to take action,” says Vitelli. “The LGBT Network is responding now to prevent hate and achieve full inclusion, affirmation, and support for the LGBT community – and to protect our LGBT youth from hate.”