BANGOR, Maine — As a part of Pride month, Northern Light Health is partnering with a local bookstore in downtown Bangor to improve LGBTQ+ representation in its facility.
Northern Light Acadia Hospital has collaborated with The Briar Patch bookstore and other local donors to buy more than 100 books as LGBTQ resources for staff, patients, and families. The hospital has also purchased extra books, so families can bring them home. Project organizers say there is something for all ages -- from pictures books, to books for parents of queer children, to relationship guides, and young adult fiction.
Another perk -- the extra business during the coronavirus pandemic has been good for The Briar Patch.
Ash Cardurns is a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner with Northern Light Acadia Hospital. She spearheaded this project, emphasizing the importance of LGBTQ representation. Cardurns said in a statement that when people can see representations of themselves in books, films, and media, it "affirms their sense of identity and bolsters self-confidence". She added that this community is often underrepresented in books and other media, which can lead to a sense of invisibility -- also affecting the mental health industry.
"So many LGBTQ+ people feel alienated by the healthcare system, whether it’s because clinicians and providers or staff members are just not knowledgeable about LGBTQ specific issues, or we’re not comfortable talking about these things," Cardurns explained to NEWS CENTER Maine.
Studies indicate that the LGBTQ community is actually at a higher risk of developing mental health issues, which is why representation is necessary. Cardurns said LGBTQ members are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, tobacco use, and suicidal ideation. Transgender individuals are at the highest risk, with a 40 percent suicide attempt rate.
Lambda Legal's "Survey of Discrimination Against LGBT People and People with HIV" reports that the LGBTQ+ community often avoids health care because of alienation and discrimination. More than 50 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals have reported discrimination in the health care setting -- and 70 percent of transgender people have.
The "LGBT Demographic Interactive" with The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law indicates Maine has a higher percentage of LGBTQ adults at 4.9 percent, compared to the national average of 4.5 percent. About 21 percent of those adults in Maine are raising children.
Abby Rice is the children's book buyer at The Briar Patch. She says that increased representation (like the mission with Northern Light Health) is important for people of all ages and sexualities.
"Representation is important not just for queer people to see themselves, but it’s really important for cis, straight, white people to be able to see somebody else on the page," Rice expressed. "Books have the power to create empathy for other people."