By Youth Consumer Advisors Sammie Dudley and Romy Lee
We know how important it is for rainbow youth to feel safe when accessing mental health and addiction services. As allies to the rainbow movement, it’s imperative that we actively do our research to support those around us. We cannot be proper allies to our rainbow peers without understanding rainbow culture and embracing it.
In 2020, Werry Workforce Whāraurau launched a resource called 'Supporting Rainbow Youth' for practitioners in the youth mental health workforce to support rainbow young people and their families. The first section, Rainbow 101 Our Community is an introductory section dedicated to rainbow culture. Here you’ll find resources that introduce you to what it’s like to be rainbow, along with resources that help increase transgender and gender diverse cultural competence. This includes a resource on Takataapui – an intersectional qualitative research project looking at the lives of Māori rainbow youth by Dr Elizabeth Kerekere.
The next section, 'Mental Health from a Rainbow Perspective' highlights how we can support rainbow youth and the services that already do so. Rainbow youth have among the highest rates of depression in our rangatahi data (see youth19 findings on www.youth19.ac.nz), however, making rainbow peers feel safe is about seeing their strengths. People are much more than their sexual orientations or identities, and it’s important we recognize this while being mindful of the hurdles, they have had to overcome to be comfortable with who they are. This means providing them with care that supports and affirms their sexual orientation and gender identity; always using pronouns regardless of whether those around you are rainbow, and involving ourselves in active support to truly recognize inequity and justice for rainbow people.
'Changing our practice' focuses on shifting current kaupapa around mental health and addictions services for our workforce to be able to cultivate a space where rainbow young people are supported to the best of our ability. Small actions and shifts in mindset add up to creating a healthy place of healing for young people. You may have never considered stating your pronouns or asking a young person about theirs, but this can play an integral role in whether a young person feels safe or not.
It is important to understand that a young person’s sexual and gender identity is not the whole of their identity, but it can be a very important part. Young people come from a diverse range of experiences that shape their wellbeing. Changing our practice as clinicians to reflect this means we can support young people, no matter what stage of their journey they are at.
Rainbow culture is evolving and transforming all the time, and celebrating Pride month is about celebrating this cultural diversity in our communities. What’s important to keep in mind, is that for rainbow people, every month is Pride month, and we hope you’ll join Werry Workforce Whāraurau in sustaining the support to them all year as knowledgeable allies to our community.