She tells ABC 6 News that unlike a physical injury where you can see someone is hurt or see that they’re better, you can’t necessarily see that when it comes to mental health. Even those who are suffering from a mental health disorder may not realize they’re suffering, she says.
While mental health disorders are found across all communities, when compared to those who don’t identify as LGBTQ+, the LGBTQ+ community is twice as likely to suffer from a mental health condition. Data from NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, taken in 2019 also shows that high school students that identify as LGBTQ+ are five times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual classmates. Thanks to training throughout 2019, all staff members at Zumbro Valley Health are now better equipped to serve and help their clients who are LGBTQ+.
The training that took place throughout 2019 was possible thanks to a “cultural, diversity and integration grant” through the state of Minnesota says Heather Geerts, the clinical director at Zumbro Valley Health. With the grant they received in 2018, Zumbro Valley Health was able to hire a diversity coordinator who then provided the safe zone training.
Throughout 2019, all staff members took part in one of fifteen, four hour training sessions. Those sessions covered topics like proper pronouns to use, understanding experiences like coming out, what different terms mean as well as differences between gender identity and gender expression. Geerts also said that staff members were also taught how to make sure that their cases were correctly documented when working with a person who may be transgender or nonbinary.
Zumbro Valley Health sought the help of the Diversity Council as well. Geerts said that while they’re now a safe zone the diversity grant also has allowed them to educate their staff about other communities within Rochester and the surrounding area.
“We want the LGBTQ+ population and community, locally, to understand that we are safe; we’ve always hoped that we were a safe zone but we now have that training and certification,” said Geerts.
To find out more about what it means to be a Safe Zone, click here.