by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Seattle's Jordan Simonson was recently honored with a prestigious psychology scholarship in Washington, D.C., for a study he did on LGBT youth.
The American Psychological Association is the national accrediting body for the field of psychology. Because the APA is so large (154,000 members), there are divisions within it that focus on particular areas of study. Division 44, the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues (PSLGBTI), specializes on the area of human sexuality.
Every year the Society gives out two science awards to graduate students: the Malyon-Smith Scholarship Award and the Bisexual Foundation Scholarship Award. Jordan received the Malyon-Smith award this year.
'I was ecstatic when I heard the news,' Jordan told Seattle Gay News. 'It is an honor to know that the Society and the APA more generally feels that this study is a valuable contribution to the field.'
Jordan is working toward a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Seattle Pacific University, where he mostly studies anxiety and depression in adolescence. Recently, he applied cognitive-behavioral theories of psychology to understanding elevated rates of anxiety and depressive symptoms in LGBTQ youth.
'Despite the well-documented finding that LGBTQ youth experience twice the rate of anxiety and depressive symptoms compared to their heterosexual counterparts, few integrative models have been proposed to explain these elevations,' he said. 'The study I designed, Youth PREVAIL (Project of Experiences and Vulnerabilities Affecting Individuals' Lives), introduces a vulnerability-stress model of symptoms in LGBTQ youth and tests it.'
Basically, the study looks at how the stress LGBTQ youth face interacts with their coping styles, and how that interaction affects their well-being.
Jordan was honored with the scholarship because of the work he's done with Youth PREVAIL.
'I am currently in my second-to-last year of graduate study, the last year of which is spent on internship somewhere nationally,' he told SGN. 'My career goal is to continue my research on mental health within the LGBTQ youth community, identifying pathways to symptoms so that we can develop interventions to reduce and eventually eliminate the health disparity between LGBTQ and heterosexual people.'
'One exciting project I am working on now is looking at the unique strengths those within our community have, i.e., protective LGBTQ factors (like pride in one's identity, having a network of LGBTQ friends, and access to community services especially for LGBTQ people),' said Jordan. 'I am developing a measure to assess these individual, interpersonal, and community strengths in order to identify how we can best protect LGBTQ youth from stressors. I can't wait to see where this new project takes us!'
Jordan says he harvests his motivation for his work from the fact that 'the LGBTQ community is marginalized by the dominant society today.'
'At the individual level, this means that LGBTQ people face stigma, discrimination, and violence, and often developed internalized homophobia,' Jordan told SGN. 'These factors most likely contribute to the elevated rates of anxiety, depression, substance use, and suicide within our community. By investigating these associations scientifically, we are able to provide concrete data that can be used as evidence to influence programming and policy. I therefore believe that the scientific study of the mental health within our community is a necessary component of LGBTQ advocacy.'
Education is key, says Jordan. 'Education has always provided a means of attaining influence for members of marginalized groups. Whether it be individuals who are marginalized due to race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, etc., educating oneself has, throughout history, demonstrated effectiveness at increasing one's ability to advocate for their community,' he said.
'I think that being an active member in the LGBTQ community includes education, be it formally or informally,' continued Jordan.
Currently, Jordan is looking for participants for Youth PREVAIL. Participants must be between the ages of 13 and 22. There is a compensation of $15 and entrance into a raffle. Youth wishing to participate can do so at www.surveymonkey.com/s/prevail.
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