NEWS

Sbarvouven.cz celebrates 5 years and will now support parents of LGBT kids

Sbarvouven.cz, the LGBT peer-to-peer mentoring website, celebrated its 5th birthday in February of this year. Since its inception it has helped 3,500 clients, the majority of whom are people under the age of 25. Last year saw the second-highest number of clients – only in the first year of the website had more people asked for help.

 

Even after five years, research carried out in December 2019 by the Median agency for the equal marriage initiative We Are Fair proves there is still a need for such service in the Czech Republic. Although homosexuality is perceived as innate (74%) and a natural part of human nature (63%), a third of the population persists in believing that it is unnatural (36 %), a fashion trend (30%), or that it corrupts public morality (30%). Even now, 22% of people see homosexuality as a personal choice. Median’s survey further shows that although 58% of respondents would not mind their child being gay, 33% answered that they would. These findings show every sign of being invariable; a 2018 survey gave near identical results.

An LGBT+ child of such parents would most likely meet with rejection from their loved ones, if they decide to come out in such an environment at all. These situations can lead to depression, mental health issues or even the development of suicidal tendencies in young people. In the Czech Republic, suicide is the second most common cause of death in people aged 15 to 24. The mentoring website Sbarvouven.cz was itself founded in response to the suicide of Filip, a 14-year-old gay boy, who did not want to live in a homophobic society. “We have dealt with thirty cases where clients mentioned suicidal ideation and another forty cases of serious depression. In these instances, there is an expert with a degree in psychology on hand to help and support our mentors,” says Oldřich Kundera, the project manager.

Help for parents

The acceptance of their family and loved ones is crucial for LGBT+ people and also regularly affects how openly they go on to live their lives. Most often, clients contact the Sbarvouven.cz website to ask for help with understanding their sexuality, but the second most common reason is their fear of rejection and uncertainty about how to approach coming out to their family.

However, experience shows that a child coming out can present a mental strain for the parents as well. They have to come to terms with having some of their hopes for their child’s future dashed. Moreover, they experience a coming out of sorts themselves when it comes to informing their colleagues or neighbours that their daughter has a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend. 45-year-old Helena went through something similar this summer when her 16-year-old son came out as gay. This is how she speaks about her initial reaction: “To be honest, it was not a complete surprise. A lot of things suddenly began to make sense. But it was still a shock. Suddenly you realise that you’ll never have grandchildren, never plan a wedding for your son and someone might attack him on the street.” 

She decided to visit the Sbarvouven.cz website when her son told her he had contacted it before coming out to her. 

“I finally bit the bullet and started to message one of the mentors. It was a great relief to hear about her experience with coming out to her family and what life is like for her now ten years later. I calmed down and realised that a lot of my beliefs about the lives of gay people were complete misconceptions. Now I know I don’t have to give up my hopes for grandchildren just yet,” says Helena (name changed at her request) of her gradual acceptance of her son’s sexuality.

Parent Support Group

Such an enlightened response is something all LGBT+ people wish for. However, despite the overt tolerance of Czechs towards homosexuality, this is only a pipe-dream in most families. “There are still many parents who not only cannot accept that their children aren’t heterosexual but who outright reject it, even at the cost of damaging family relationships. Puberty is hard enough on its own and when it involves a sexuality crisis and a painful coming out, it can be life-threatening. Sadly, there is a higher suicide rate among young LGBT+ people. The family’s acceptance and support helps young people find their own identity and enter society as well-adjusted, responsible and happy adults,” says website expert advisor Irena Smetáčková, the Head of the Psychology Department at the Charles University Faculty of Education.

Website mentors are prepared to not only communicate with young people experiencing coming out but also to answer their parents’ questions and help them orient and educate themselves. One of the mentors ready to share their parenting experiences is Svatava Havlíčková, Filip’s mother.

“We are also launching a brand new project – a support group for the parents of LGBT+ children. It’s a platform for parents to share their experiences and talk to people in a similar situation. These meetings will be led by two psychologists who have broad-ranging experience working with LGBT+ people and their families,” adds the project manager, Oldřich Kundera.

About the Sbarvouven.cz Project

The peer-to-peer mentoring website Sbarvouven.cz was founded in 2015 by the Prague Pride organization together with Ester Janečková, a TV host whose 14-year-old nephew committed suicide to protest against the homophobia in Czech society. Currently, the website has 26 active peer-to-peer mentors of all genders who do not have a background in psychology but who experienced coming out themselves and know what our clients are going through.

In the five years since inception, the website has broadened its scope. Due to growing demand, it has seen an increase in the numbers of transgender mentors. There has also been an influx of Slovak clients, who lack a similar service in their own country. Our new team members include a lesbian mother and a mentor for LGBT+ allies (heterosexual supporters of the LGBT+ community). Besides the peer-to-peer mentoring service, clients can also use the newly established support groups led by psychologists: a coming-out support group, which began meeting in January; the above mentioned parents support group is in development.

Eighty-three percent of clients are younger than 26 years old. The majority (40%) are teenagers aged 15 to 18. The second-largest group are children aged 10 to 14. People aged 19 to 25 represent 20% of the website’s clients. They are reaching out to the website from all over the country; the percentages are relatively similar in every region. Almost 10% of our clients come from Slovakia. Last year the mentors communicated with 682 people and 24,724 unique users visited www.sbarvouven.cz to not only use the chat but also read articles and use the map of LGBT-friendly counsellors, and the lists of Facebook groups and helplines.

For an interview with the website patron Ester Janečková or one of the mentors contact: Bohdana Rambousková, PR manager, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +420 606 191 154

 

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