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Connecticut Group Supports LGBT Youth in Wake of Gay Teen Suicides

October 7, 2010

HARTFORD, Conn. - Five suicides among gay teens in the U.S. in the past three weeks has created stress and anger among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in Connecticut. Robin McHaelen is with True Colors, which offers Connecticut's only mentoring program for the state's LGBT youth. She says young people have been responding intensely to the suicides.

"Many of the youth I talk to are more angry than distressed. But the youth I worry about are the youth that we don't know about -- the ones who are not out, who are still in their questioning phases."

She says support for these kids is critical to prevent more teen suicides, which she says can be contagious. True Colors serves 100 youth in the mentoring program and several hundred more through the state's Gay-Straight Alliances in 164 schools.

McHaelen says True Colors has been urging adults with a young person in their lives to reach out to them.

"Ask them if they've heard about what's going on. Ask them what it's been like for them. Ask them if there's things that they want to do to get involved to make a difference for themselves or their friends. Just engage them in the conversation."

A recent report showed that over the past 30 years, acceptance of LGBT college students has not increased much on campuses around the country. McHaelen adds the experience of kids she works with has been mixed.

"We've had kids who have not been out in high school, who got to college and found the freedom and the space to be themselves. We've had kids who've been very out in high school who have gone to college and suddenly were sort of forced back into the closet."

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT