Indiana Youth Group’s Journey Reabe faces a fun, but tough challenge trying to pin down what the youth she’s serving like, as in, like to do, like to eat, like to learn about. Reabe facilitates the Indiana Youth Group’s Drop-In Tuesdays, a weekly event for LGBTQ+ youth in Montgomery County. It’s a new venture, in fact, IYG picked Crawfordsville as its first-ever satellite, part of a plan to expand across Indiana to give LGBTQ+ (and allies) safe spaces, mental health counseling and resources because these young people often struggle and usually in many ways.
Drop-in Tuesdays began in late June, so Reabe’s just getting to know what the various young people love. Art, especially drawing, stands out. So does food, pizza, garlic breadsticks and Mountain Dew.
“We had a pizza-tasting party,” Reabe said, “with three kinds of pizza.” She said that Little Caesars came out as the favorite. Brothers came in second, and teens thought Arnis was Pizza King. Reabe seemed surprised Arni’s didn’t do better; personally, she’s fond of the thin crust of an Arni’s pizza.
Drop-in Tuesdays include a hot meal, activities and a chance to connect with each other, as well as learn about the other services that IYG offers, including insurance-and-cost-free counseling with Joshua Brainard, the licensed clinical mental health counselor on the Crawfordsville team. IGY also helps at-risk LGBTQ youth with resources — connecting to food, health care, housing, hygiene and educational opportunities.
LGTBQ youth have long endured risks mental and physical risks, which is why IYG began in the late eighties after a large number of young adults were calling an emergency hotline.
IYG came to Crawfordsville in 2023 when a local pediatrician contacted IYG’s CEO to express concern about the number of LGBTQ patients who confessed to anxiety, depression, despair and self-harm. While many families love their children, some struggle to know the best ways to support their LGBTQ+ youth. Even when they provide a safe home, LGBTQ youth need community support. When there is an absence of support, suicide and homelessness for LGBTQ teens is significantly higher than for cis-gender, heterosexual teens. The National Institutes of Health reported in 2019 that LGBTQ+ youth between 15-24 are between four and eight times more likely to have suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior than cis-gender heterosexual youth. The Trevor Project’s 2022 findings show that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the previous year, and those who felt “high social support” from their family reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of unsupported families and communities. LGBTQ youth who found their school to be supportive reported lower rates of suicidal ideation and attempts.
Humans are built for connection and relationship. We’re less likely to die of despair where we’re supported and connected. Our communities matter, as does access to mental health, which is difficult for almost everyone since there are too few professionals for too much demand. IYG plans to expand services as more young people participate and will include support groups as well as drop-in nights.
IYG serves a small group of students presently, in part because the county is largely rural. North Montgomery School Corporation invited its guidance staff to connect with Brainard and Reabe, who are waiting to hear from Southmont and Crawfordsville districts to open up channels to serve their students. Meanwhile, they know that transportation and programming modalities will affect how they support kids outside of the city limits or not within walking distance. Just as the Indianapolis hub offers virtual connection, they hope to create online or hybrid options for teens in the countryside. Youths who want to connect virtually now can go to https://www.indianayouthgroup.org/virtual-iyg
As Indiana Youth Group Crawfordsville grows, they are recruiting volunteers for transportation and providing hot meals on Tuesday nights. To learn more you can attend their upcoming open house from 5-7 p.m. Oct. 11 at 808 E. Pike St.
You can follow IYG Crawfordsville on Instagram, or contact the staff: Reabe firstname.lastname@example.org; Brainard, email@example.com; or John Goodson, youth services supervisor firstname.lastname@example.org.
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