North Brunswick, NJ-March 25, 2015- According to a study conducted by the Family Acceptance Project, a program run through San Francisco State University, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGTBQ) youth with higher family acceptance experience better mental health. In fact, LGBTQ youth who experience family rejection are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide, 5.9 times more likely to have severe depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to engage in unprotected sex as compared to their peers in more accepting families. Unfortunately, within communities of racial and ethnic minorities, family acceptance is even harder to find for LGBTQ youth due to the silence and stigma surrounding the topic.
To break the silence and confront the stigma around LGBTQ identities within the South Asian community, SAMHAJ, a program run through National Alliance on Mental Illness of New Jersey (NAMI NJ), is hosting an event called "Coming Out, Coming Home: South Asian Family Acceptance and LGBTQ Youth" on April 20th, 2015. South Asians are people who trace their ancestry to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka including people of the South Asian diaspora, past generations of South Asians who settled in different parts of the world. According to a report released by the Asian American Federation and SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together), a non-partisan advocacy organization, South Asians are the fastest growing Asian American ethnic group in the US. Such an event is greatly needed because conversations about LGBTQ family acceptance rarely take place in the South Asian community.
The purpose of "Coming Out, Coming Home" is to support South Asian families to better understand different sexual and gender identities in relation to mental health concerns. The panelists include Sudha Wadhwani, PsyD., a South Asian psychologist specialized in coming out issues, Saranya Ganapathy, a student advocate from Rutgers, Razia Kosi, a parent and founder of the Maryland-based CHAI, Counselors Helping (South) Asians/Indians, and Naz Seenauth, a student activist.
When asked about the what she hopes to bring to the panel, Saranya Ganapathy said "I am not a professional of any kind but I have the experience of living as a non-straight South Asian person and I want to let South Asian families know what that is like. I hope to remind people in the room of their own LGBTQ+ family members."