A Free Tool To help LGBTQ+ Youth Cope with Stress

imi (pronounced eye-me) helps LGBTQ+ youth explore and affirm their identity and learn practical approaches to cope with stress that are helpful, relevant, inclusive and joyful. Designed with and for LGBTQ+ teens, with an intentional focus on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming youth, imi features videos, audio recordings, artwork, and affirmations from LGBTQ+ teens to boost positive coping skills and mindsets that support LGBTQ+ youth mental well-being. imi is available for free; easily accessible from any device with a web browser and internet connection at imi.guide

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imi is for queer people by queer people to help everyone.
Rene, 15, Mississippi
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Research-Backed Activities & Resources to Bolster LGBTQ+ Youth Well-Being

imi was tested through a randomized controlled trial conducted by researchers at Hopelab and the University of Pennsylvania’s Program on Sexuality, Technology, and Action Research (PSTAR). Of the 270 teens who participated in the trial, 78% identified as BIPOC, and 60% identified as transgender and/or gender expansive, genderqueer, or gender nonconforming.

Initial data, detailed in a preprint manuscript (under peer review) indicates that imi is effective in supporting the well-being of LGBTQ+ youth. A diverse group of LGBTQ+ youth randomly assigned to receive imi reported significantly greater improvements in coping skills and significantly greater confidence in their ability to cope than youth randomly assigned to receive a web-based list of freely available resources for LGBTQ+ youth. These results suggest that imi may play an important role in helping LGBTQ+ teens cope with stress. 

Our own team of researchers partnered with José Bauermeister, MPH, Ph.D. and Jesse Golinkoff, MPH  at PSTAR to leverage their expertise in research and intervention methods aimed at policy solutions for sexual and gender minorities. We believe this important work will further advance the co-creation and development of science-backed interventions.

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A collaborative Partnership to Build, Test, and Scale imi

Launched in January 2020, our team traveled the U.S. (physically and virtually), chatting with young queer people, stakeholders, and academics to learn more about the needs and challenges of access to affirming-mental health resources for LGBTQ+ youth.  With input from hundreds of LGBTQ+ youth (with a primary focus on teens), we prioritized representation from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming youth while conducting listening and co-design sessions.

As we co-created our science-backed digital tool for queer teens to explore and affirm their identity, we realized we couldn’t do this alone. In partnership with CenterLink and the It Gets Better Project we hope to measurably improve the health and happiness of young queer people.

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The need to Support and Affirm Queer Youth Now

Identity-affirming resources are vital to the well-being of sexual and gender minority youth (SGMY). Alarming data continues to shed light on the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on LGBTQ+ youth suicidality, and now more than 300 anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced across nearly 40 states – further exacerbating healthcare disparities and directly impacting LGBTQ+ youth.

The stress of being LGBTQ+ in a cisnormative, heteronormative world can be profoundly harmful to queer youth. Forty-two percent of LGBTQ+ youth report having seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. Sixty-five percent of LGBTQ+ youth reported symptoms of moderate to severe depression, twice as likely as their non-queer counterparts.

While there are excellent crisis services like Trevor Project, Crisis Text Line, and Trans Lifeline, there are fewer options like Q Chat Space for those who are looking for support in navigating the day-to-day experience of growing up queer. More evidence-backed, non-crisis options are needed to bolster the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ+ young people.

imi responds to the need for safe, accessible, and research-backed support for LGBTQ+ youth within the digital health ecosystem, delivering freely available resources and activities that focus on topics like stress, LGBTQ+ identity, internalized stigma, and gender identity and expression. 

imi is not a social platform or a crisis tool – it is intended as a resource for LGBTQ+ teens to help affirm their identity and learn practical ways to cope with stress and stigma. If in crisis, the following resources are available for support: TrevorLifeline, TrevorChat, TrevorText, Trans Lifeline, Crisis Text Line, and/or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. A “quick exit” button is also included for users who need to discreetly leave the tool when feeling unsafe or judged in their surroundings. 

Queer Content

A reading and riffing with Stuart Getty, Author of How to They/Them

Stuart Getty (they/them) joins two of our youth contributors, Will Coleman (he/him) and Sam Dinga (she/hers, they/them) to unpack the ways we might better support queer and gender non-conforming people.

Watch the recording (90 mins)

Queer & Thriving Panel

On September 1, 2020 Hopelab, along with CenterLink and Headstream, hosted a virtual panel and Q&A with leading experts in  LGBTQ+ teen and young adult mental health discussing what we need to know from research to support resilience among queer young people. The panel featured host, Arianna Taboada, MSW, MSPH and panelists, Shelley Craig, PhD, LCSW and Lance T. McCready, PhD.

Hope is Timeless: OUTWORDS and Hopelab Celebrate Pride

Learn more about the importance of intergenerational dialogue and hear stories of longtime LGBTQ+ pioneers and activists including Mandy Carter (LGBTQ and Civil Rights Activist), Renee Imperato (Trans Pioneer), and Alex Sanchez (LAMBDA Award-winning YA Novelist).

Watch the recording (75 mins)


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