BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Mahlia Lowell of Cheektowaga has spent most of her life knowing and accepting that she’s a member of the LGBTQ+ community. The people around her were not always as accepting.
“Sixth grade is when I started to get bullied," Lowell said. "And all that bullying and not being accepted by my peers and everything is what really started to trigger me as an individual, and questioning my worth.”
At the tender age of eleven, Lowell started self-harming. Years later, she would attempt suicide.
“LGBTQ youth are two and a half times more likely to self harm," executive director of GLYS Western New York Robert DiGangi-Roush said. "Those that are actually rejected by their families are eight times more likely to commit suicide.”
According to Roush, 40% of teens who are homeless in Western New York identify as member of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Now only about 8 to 11 percent of the youth population would be considered to identify as LGBTQ," Roush said. "So that's far, far out of whack.”
When it comes to in-patient mental health care for teens, Roush said the Children's Psychiatric Center in West Seneca reports up to 80% of its patients being a part of the community as well.
“There still not very good statistics,” Roush said.
Over the last few years, Mahlia, in conjunction with GLYS, has traveled to many different schools in Western New York to talk about mental health to LGBT teens.
“It's just really important for these kids to know that they are loved and they are seen," Lowell said.
And according to Lowell the message is resonating. Surveys from schools she visits shows the number of students who have considered dying by suicide has declined from 33 percent to 14 percent.
“Which, if the number is not zero then we still have a significant amount of work to do. However, it still makes a very significant difference,” she said.
Mental Health Resources for LGBTQ+ TEENS
GLYS Western New York , 278 Delaware Ave. Buffalo, NY 14202, 716.855.0221
Pride Center of Western New York, 278 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14202, 716-852-7743
PFlag. Helpline: 716-883-0384
The Counseling Center of WNY, 4476 Main Street, Amherst, NY 14226, 716-833-0415