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Connecticut Children’s Receives $100,000 Grant from the M&T Charitable Foundation’s Amplify Fund for Youth Mental Health Initiative

“We have learned a lot as we have been navigating the mental health pandemic and one of the lessons learned that we have to take away is that not all kids are impacted equally,” said Melissa Santos, Ph.D., Division Head, Pediatric Psychology at Connecticut Children’s. “We have groups of kids who have some of the worst mental health outcomes and we have to find different and innovative ways to support them. One of those populations is our transgender youth.”

Improving behavioral health is a priority

Highlighting Hope

According to the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people, 53% of transgender and nonbinary youth in Connecticut considered suicide in the past year—a number that is higher than the national rate. Other numbers for Connecticut are equally alarming: 13% of transgender and nonbinary youth in the state attempted suicide in the past year. Over 60% reported symptoms of depression and nearly 75% reported symptoms of anxiety.

When more transgender youth than not are considering suicide and struggling with their mental health, what keeps them going day after day? That is one of the questions Dr. Santos has set out to answer in a new research initiative: Identifying Resiliency & Protective Factors to Transgender Youth.

“A lot of times, when we focus on mental health, we focus on the dire circumstances that face our youth,” Dr. Santos said. “Sometimes we forget just how resilient our kids are. They have shown us how strong they are over the past several years, and this project hopes to highlight that. Instead of focusing on what we know are the really tough circumstances our transgender youth face, we want to focus on what gives them hope, what makes them look forward to tomorrow, and what is the message they want people to know about them. We hope their messages will offer hope and support to other transgender youth.”

Celebrating all children, equally.

Empowering Transgender Youth

To identify these protective factors, Dr. Santos is creating a youth advisory board to empower local transgender youth to help shape the care that they and their peers need—from prevention and treatment to research and training. This approach ensures that care is based on the lived experiences of transgender youth themselves, and not on the assumptions of people outside the transgender community.

Dr. Santos’ project has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the M&T Charitable Foundation’s Amplify Fund, which supports organizations that provide a host of direct services for individuals and families including access to affordable housing, childcare, health care, job training and more. 

“Through the Amplify Fund, we are committed to continuing our partnership with organizations like Connecticut Children’s that work hand in hand with community members in the field to provide the critical resources and programming necessary to truly make a difference,” said Nancy Bigonette, Northern CT Program Officer, and Amplify Fund Manager of the M&T Charitable Foundation.

Invest in a Better Future

When you give to Connecticut Children’s, you make an investment in pediatric health and better futures for children. Healthier children grow into healthier communities. At Connecticut Children’s, no child is denied care based on a family’s ability to pay. We are here for anyone who needs us…maybe even you.

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