What it means to have an affirming & inclusive mental health provider

Submitted by: CHNK Therapist Mia Neal, MSSW, CSW

I remember the day like it was yesterday – I was attending a national webinar through Human Rights Campaign regarding best practices for serving LGBTQ youth in out of home care. During the training, CHNK Behavioral Health was spotlighted for their All Children-All Families seal of recognition. The seal of recognition identifies CHNK’s commitment to supporting and serving all youth, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer. CHNK Behavioral Health is the first and only child welfare organization in Kentucky to achieve this recognition.

LGBTQ people like myself are very aware of the fact that we live in a heteronormative society making it often difficult to feel a sense of belonging and support from their community, school, family, and friends.  CHNK’s LGBTQ affirming and inclusive practices and transparent commitment to the safety and well-being of these youth and families are some of the driving forces behind my reason for wanting to be a part of CHNK.

As helping professionals, we at CHNK take on a responsibility to serve those in need, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, political affiliation, marital status, perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or any other non-merit factor. In the social service field, there are often barriers and gaps in services that contribute to the failure of meeting the needs of our clients, especially members of the LGBTQ community.

Working at CHNK has given me the ability to be transparent in all realms of my life. The opportunity to be open about my sexual orientation, gender identity and expression provides me with the ability to utilize a conscious sense of self, which helps me to intentionally and purposefully communicate with others in a way that facilitates change and growth.  When we can be our authentic selves and purposeful about LGBTQ inclusion, it gives us a unique opportunity to build trust and help our youth embrace their true selves, break barriers, and increase family and community support, and to be surrounded by the family of our choice. At CHNK, diversity is celebrated all year round.  The “welcome mat” is always rolled out.

Did You Know:

  • LGB adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition
  • LGBTQ people are at a higher risk than the general population for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts
  • High school students who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers
  • 48% of all transgender adults report that they have considered suicide in the past 12 months, compared to 4% of the overall US population


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