February 22, 2018
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Chalk walks aim to prevent gay suicides

By Macey Hall, Special to the BDN

People in the Bangor area and across the country participated Monday in the national You-Are-Loved Chalk Message Project, which offers messages of hope such as “You are Loved” and “You are Beautiful” written in chalk on sidewalks. The events were held to prevent suicides in gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and queer — or GLTBQ — communities.

The University of Maine was scheduled to participate in the project for the first time with an event at 6:45 p.m. on the steps of Fogler Library.

“I’m hoping that the event will engage students in a project and create a welcoming community here on campus; show support of GLTBQ students; [and] tell them they’re not alone and that there are resources here on campus,” Whitney Kangas, prevention graduate assistant for the Counseling Center and Peer Education Program at UMaine, said before the event.

Another You-Are-Loved Chalk Message Project event was held from 5 to 7 p.m. at Westmarket Square in downtown Bangor.

Kangas said she organized the event at UMaine to combat hateful rhetoric about the GLTBQ community. The event included opening remarks about the history of the project and a speech from a peer educator on the recent suicides in the GLTBQ community. After the speeches, participants took to the sidewalks of the mall with chalk to write their own encouraging messages of hope.

The counseling center collaborated for the event with the Peer Education Program, the Safe Campus Project, university GLTBQ services and the grant-based Touch Stone suicide prevention project.

Kangas said the event is especially important in light of recent suicides. At least six suicides by members of the GLTBQ community have been reported in the past few weeks in the U.S.

“We don’t want to see it happen here,” Kangas said. “We know we have resources available, and there’s no reason someone should take their life.”

According to the You-Are-Loved Chalk Project’s website, GLTBQ youths are four to nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. The event runs in conjunction with National Depression Awareness Week, Oct. 3-8. Kangas said she found out about the You-Are-Loved Project on Facebook and thought it would be a good project for UMaine.

Kangas said her office would hand out informational packets that include suicide hot line numbers.

“We like to see the support of the LGBT community,” said Gavin Pickering, coordinator of GLTBQ services at UMaine. “It’s a really good message from them.”

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