Helping Indiana LGBTQ+ Youth THRIVE

LGBTQ+ youth are disproportionately and alarmingly at risk for self-harm. This risk is only amplified by environments that may be typically discouraging or unwelcoming of LGBTQ+ identities. That’s why Indiana Youth Group, an LGBTQ+ youth center based out of Indianapolis, IN, has been developing a prevention program for Midwestern youth.

This program, entitled THRIVE: Dare to be Powerful, is an evidence-based program for LGBTQ+ youth ages 12 to 20 that provides them with coping skills and encouragement at no cost whatsoever. This program came about after Indiana Youth Group staff discovered that “there were no evidence-based suicide prevention programs centering LGBTQ+ youth. There were incredible resources and wonderful work being done, but [Indiana Youth Group] decided to utilize the curriculum Coping And Support Training because of its focus on mood management, drug use control, and goal setting as well as its status as an evidence-based program.”

Participants of “THRIVE: Dare to be Powerful” experienced many benefits, including “decreased symptoms of depression, increased self-esteem, looking forward to and planning for the future, developed positive coping skills, and feelings of connectedness to the LGBTQ+ community and making friends.”

Kyle Casteel, an Indiana Youth Group Alumni, has said that “THRIVE: Dare to be Powerful” is “a very transformational service that doesn’t get as much attention [as their other programs]. Rates of suicide are so high in [Indiana], and LGBTQ young people are especially at risk. This program is something that has been impactful to me personally so I really see the value in that kind of work … When my peer group lost a close friend to suicide, the Indiana Youth Group youth workers went out of their way to make sure I was doing OK. It’s that kind of relationship-based work that makes Indiana Youth Group different than other organizations and so important to the community.”

Casteel later spoke about the call for relationship-based youth work and interaction with young people in general, but especially of youth in areas of the country that are not as historically and publicly accepting of them (such as Indiana).

“[This work] is necessary. LGBTQ young people want for so much, especially in our state,” Casteel said. “[No organization] is perfect, but anyone ready and willing to engage in the hard work it takes to provide our young people with the things they need deserves recognition for that.”

Indiana Youth Group’s self-harm prevention program is a perfect example of how to assist, encourage, and foster growth in LGBTQ+ youth while promoting safety and community. These programs are not standing alone, as Indiana Youth Group has many more programs to keep LGBTQ+ involved in their communities.

Youth looking to connect with Indiana Youth Group should visit their building during their office hours and speak with a staff member about what resources and programs are available to them.

Casteel also added that “the youth facing staff [at Indiana Youth Group] right now are some of the hardest working people in their fields and they are there to help youth get the support they need. Every youth is different so everyone should know there’s no question the folks at IYG won’t try to help you work through.”

Indiana Youth Group is not the only place or assistance for LGBTQ+ youth though! For more information on resources specifically for LGBTQ+ youth, please visit the Indiana Youth Group Resources tab by clicking here and reach out to any LGBTQ+ centers near you for more local resources.

Taylor M. Parker

Taylor M. Parker, 20, is a graduate student at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in Indianapolis, where she received her undergraduate degree focusing in women's and cross-cultural philanthropy. As a life-long learner and nurturer, she has strong passions for wide-spread civic engagement and the culture of kindness for all people. When she isn’t writing research papers or organizing fundraisers, Taylor enjoys volunteering with friends, writing letters and poetry, making themed mixtapes, and attending live performances.

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