My Harlingen News Rotating Header Image

Austin-based non-profit connects and supports LGBTQ teens to prevent isolation, depression and suicide

22-year-old LGBTQ activist and founder of ‘SanghLink’ urgently speaks out on recent tragedy

(AUSTIN, TX) – One of Austin’s newest non-profits, SanghaLink, is tackling the escalating issue of isolation, depression and suicide amongst teen LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, questioning) populations through an online community platform. In the powerful wake of the recent suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a teen who was grappling with her gender and sexuality, LBGTQ activist Anna Weingart plans to integrate the platform in local high schools throughout the nation and urges others to heed Alcorn’s call.

“Sadly, we cannot go back in time and prevent Leelah Alcorn’s death, but we can honor her wish to change our society and our schools, which was her plea to give her death meaning,” Anna says. “The word ‘Sangha’ is Sanskrit for community.  An educated, proactive community can prevent so many of the issues that LGBTQ teens experience – even suicide.”

Weingart founded SanghaLink in 2014 to address the critical and growing need for support and community within the LGBTQ teen population. Currently, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 and LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers. Also, each episode of LGBTQ victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times, on average.

Alcorn’s death is also a tragic reminder of Weingart’s personal experience, when she tried to commit suicide at 14, feeling isolated and rejected. “When I entered college, I began speaking with the LGBTQ population and noticed an overwhelming pattern; they all lacked community when they were younger. It was after this that I realized how representative my own story is of the LGBTQ community.”

Many students find it difficult to connect with others for fear of rejection, or there may only be a very small LBGTQ population at their school.  Stigma, discrimination and bullying against LGBTQ teens feed into depression, substance abuse, isolation and other suicidal risk factors.

“Research has shown that community and support can greatly diminish these risk factors. I had no idea that there were other gay teens in/around Austin, and I certainly didn’t know how to find them,” she says. “I want to make it so that no student wrestling with these issues, no matter where they are, has to do so alone.”

SanghaLink successfully launched its pilot program last year with several Austin-area high schools. Utilizing a secure, online social network through the school, students must complete a profile questionnaire, be approved to participate and must be under 18 years of age. The site is monitored by SanghaLink staff to prevent bullying or any inappropriate content. Students are given the option to remain anonymous. The site is intended for open and safe discussions; for teens to freely voice their feelings, concerns and fears — and be heard.

Kate Ward, a teacher at NYOS Charter School and sponsor of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, praises the benefits of SanghaLink. “I hear from kids how much they want to find other LGBTQ kids to chat with. With so many feeling abandoned by their families and friends, they need a channel to connect with each other and to create supportive communities while feeling assured of their safety. SanghaLink is that channel, providing kids with a sense of place when the places they’re used to feel unwelcoming.”

Weingart plans to launch SanghaLink nationwide throughout 2015/16. For more information on SanghaLink or to get involved, visit www.SanghaLink.org.
 

About SanghaLink 

Our mission is to provide LGBTQ youth and allies with a safe online social network that is integrated into the local high schools in and around their city. Our secure, community-focused space helps students of different schools join together in dealing with issues that are unique to their LGBTQ community.  

Through social media, our aim is to prevent issues that are prevalent in LGBTQ youth, such as homelessness, depression, substance abuse, and suicide. We are committed to providing local communities with the resources necessary to build and strengthen an educated and proactive LGBTQ youth and allies. 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

The forecast for 78550 by Wunderground for WordPress