Encircle is a resource center created to bring the family and community together to enable LGBTQ+ youth to thrive. Many LGBTQ+ individuals manifest symptoms of mental illness that they may not have otherwise expressed if it hadn’t been for the societal stigma and shame regarding queer identity. Unfortunately, in the state of Utah, we have one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. It is the leading cause of death in people ages 15-24 and among LGB youth, more than 40% have seriously considered suicide. To combat the isolation, shame, depression, and lonliness LGBTQ+ individuals often feel without strong relationships of support, we’ve designed our programming to address these four areas of focus:
- social connection – healthy social connections are consistently and positively associated with all indicators of psychological well-being
- positive emotional experiences – people who have positive emotions in their everyday lives tend to be happier, healthier, learn better, and get along well with others
- emotional & psychological skills – skills like sharing emotions, countering negative thoughts patterns, and mindful acceptance of emotion all contribute to greater mental health and increased well-being
- authenticity – humans thrive when they are working towards self-defined meaningful goals
To accomplish these objectives, Encircle provides a safe space, friendship circles, daily programming, affordable therapy, educational publications, and community trainings and events. In a space where young LGBTQ+ people who are highly rejected by their families are 8x more likely to attempt suicide than those from families that engage in few or no rejecting behaviors, we are committed to providing a safe space, and helping families create that for themselves. We are so glad to have seen so many educators, parents, government officials, artists, and volunteers show up and walk beside us.
Encircle was actually born out of this community support. Decades ago, Stephenie Larsen developed a relationship with her gay family member, John Williams. As her relationship with him deepened, so did her understanding and connection with other LGBTQ+ individuals. They dreamed up this refuge together, but after John passed away, the idea would have died away–if it hadn’t been for youth and parents who asked for it and offered whatever they could in time, funds, resources, labor, etc.
Today, three years later:
- 4,000 volunteers and community members have received training on strengthening relationships and creating inclusive environments for our LGBTQ+ neighbors.
- 97% of guests report feeling connected to themselves and each other when using Encircle services.
- 95% of Encircle guests indicate that our friendship circles, workshops, panels, and guest speakers taught them new material and helpful content, leading to development of emotional and psychological skills.
- Since June of 2019, over 200 individuals have collectively received 1200 sessions of therapy, with 80% paying less than $10 per session.
- Every week, local businesses, organizations, and educators make new requests for Encircle’s training on cultural humility.
If you are interested in getting involved, please visit encircletogether.org.
No Sides, Only Love
Guest post by: Camlyn Giddins