ROSMY, formerly the Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth, was established in 1991 and provides a lifeline for LGBTQ youth ages eleven to twenty in Richmond and Charlottesville.
The organization offers a variety of weekly youth support groups, a leadership program, drop-in hours at the youth center, 24/7 hotline, and social activities like the annual ROSMY prom. The youth center houses programs for parents, including Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG for short. Throughout Central Virginia, ROSMY also provides training for teachers, social workers, counselors, and other youth workers on how to address the unique needs of LGBTQ youth.
As ROSMY’s executive director, Beth Panilaitis explains, “Developing quality peer support for this age group is critical, because there are so many youth who will talk to their friends before they ever approach an adult. We knew that effective and successful first aid for our youth required that we teach these kids to help each other when they think that a friend is considering suicide. ”
According to Panilaitis, who has been with ROSMY since 2010, an important part of the nonprofit’s initiative focuses on increasing the number of trained adults in Central Virginia who are prepared and willing to help youth struggling with the challenges related to life as as LGBTQ teen. Whether it’s peers or adults who initiate the intervention, suicide prevention starts with recognizing the warning signs.
Through this important work, ROSMY hopes to build a safety net for LGBTQ youth, made up of peers and adults across the community. “Through education and support, we have an opportunity for the Greater Richmond area to serve as a model for ensuring that LGBTQ youth grow up healthy and safe,” says Panilaitis. “But, because teen suicide is a community-wide issue, it will take everyone. Whether you are a teacher, a clinician, or a concerned parent, anyone who has relationships with youth can be a part of this mission.”
Enroll in Training to Help Foster Confidence and Wellness in LGBTQ Youth
The two-hour training offered through ROSMY’s Institute for Equality helps participants recognize the underlying issues that are specific to LGBTQ youth and to identify red flags. For example, adults are taught to pay attention when youth drastically change their behaviors. The training also gives participants clear and culturally competent steps that they can take if they believe an LGBTQ youth is at risk.
Training is offered at the ROSMY youth center and can also be provided to area schools and human service agencies, free of charge. To learn more about this and ROSMY’s other programs, contact ROSMY or call 804-644-4800.
You can read more about ROSMY’s important mission on page 24 of the September issue of Richmond Family Magazine.