In a piece for the Columbus Dispatch, guest columnist Vickie Thompson-Sandy—CEO of foster care nonprofit The Buckeye Ranch—describes the importance of connection in mental health and argues against the Ohio bill that would ban gender-affirming care for trans youth, disconnecting them from their sense of belonging with others and their own bodies:
“As humans, we all have a need to belong. It is how we identify with others and find identity.
I am a team member at The Buckeye Ranch. I am a member of two different families thanks to marriage. I am a member of a book club. I am a member of a golf league.
I belong to these groups.
As a human service organization that serves young people in the child welfare and mental health arena, The Buckeye Ranch is witness to the devastating impact on children who do not experience belonging.
It is traumatizing to grow up in a household where you do not have a healthy bond with caring adults. And it is traumatizing to grow up in a community where you do not feel included due to behaviors related to your mental health or your identity.
A sense of belonging is critical to healthy development.
The U.S. Surgeon General issued a report on loneliness last year stating, ‘The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and even greater than that associated with obesity and physical inactivity.’ . . .
Now imagine being an adolescent today who does not feel like they belong. . . . They don’t feel like they belong in the classroom because they can’t sit still or concentrate like everyone else. They don’t feel like they belong on the sports team because they do not think they are as good as the other players.
They don’t feel like they belong in the body that they were born into. . . .
The Trevor Project estimates that every 45 seconds an LGBTQIA+ youth attempts suicide.
Ohio is on the precipice of advancing these disheartening realities.”
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