July 24, 2017

Justin James Michaels

Interview by Stephen Libby

Stephen Libby: Tell us about the t-shirt fundraiser. Why you started it and who it benefits.

Justin James Michaels: The fundraiser was initially started in support of my best friend, Renée Angelie, who was diagnosed in 2014 with Bipolar Disorder, Depression and Anxiety issues. It nearly took her life. Something so exceptional and I failed to recognize it. Since then she has lost everything, her home, her job, her car, and her daughter. The system has failed her. Not able to work and filing for SSD has taken 19 months without any income and any sign of a decision in sight. As many people turn away from the illness, I did not. I wanted to do more, learn more, share more, speak more openly about it for the voices that could not speak for themselves. Mental illness is overshadowed by other high profile organizations and foundations such as those of Cancers or HIV/AIDS campaigns. Mental illnes is still seen as a stigma. A person suffering is shamed or told to stop glorifying the illness. What needs to be said is that it’s okay to talk about the good and the Bad.

As funding and medical coverage is changing, it is more difficult for mental illness patients to get the proper treatment, which includes therapy, seeing a professional as a psychiatrist to pay close attention to what medication is appropriate for you and how to get meds without having to pay the enormous fees for people who are not insured properly. All of this and other programs need funding. Programs

Such as workforce development and having a free school presentation where students get to see what it is like living with mental illness.

I quickly realized that It is so difficult to have people donate let alone read what I’ve learned from speaking to others, and what I’ve researched about mental Health. I thought as an incentive I would Offer tshirts from company’s Ive partnered with and what seemed to be an interest in them as I wore them around. They do not particularly pertain to mental health wellness, but have a positive and motivational message. Donations saw an uptick and pushed me over my personal goal.

SL: Explain to us the state of mental health concerns in LGBT youth population and how that may be different from non LGBT youth.

JJM: The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer community face mental health conditions just like the rest of the public. However, they may experience more negative mental health outcomes due to prejudice and other biases. The effects of – a dual stigma can be harmful.

LGBTQ youth face fear, hatred and prejudice in school, with friends, in the community and at home, which can lead to higher risks of self-harm and thoughts of suicide. LGBTQ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than the general public.

For LGBTQ people aged 10–24, suicide is one of the leading causes of death. LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely and questioning youth are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts or engage in self-harm than straight people. Between 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicidal tendencies.

SL: Where can people get more information and how can they help the cause?

JJM: Early intervention, treatment and family support are the key to helping LGBTQ youth on the road to recovery. There are many resources available to help teens and young adults.

  • The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is avaiabld to anyone at any time to speak to someone and get support. For confidential support available 24/7 for everyone in the United States, call 1-800-273-8255.
  • The Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling offers a list of resources for LGBT individuals and works to educate counseling professionals on LGBT issues.
  • The Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists offers numerous resources for LGBT people who are experiencing mental health conditions, including a directory of LGBT-friendly therapists.
  • The Center for American Progress offers a variety of resources, including a report called Why the Gay and Transgender Population Experiences Higher Rates of Substance Use.
  • The GLBT National Help Center provides multiple resources and access to a hotline and a youth chat line.
  • GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) provides an annual report called the National School Climate Survey, which reports on the experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in U.S. schools.
  • The Pride Institute is an unlocked, LGBT-exclusive facility that offers a residential treatment program, including psychiatric care for depression, anxiety and other needs.
  • The Rainbow Access Initiative works to inform and educate health care providers on LGBTQ specific issues.
  • The Trevor Project is a multimedia support network for LGBTQ youth providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention.