O'Neale Atkinson, Time Out Youth Center. (Photo Credit: WCNC video still)

This story was first published on April 17, 2020 on WCNC’s website.
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The quarantine has kept families largely at home for weeks now, and for LGBTQ youth with unaccepting families, it appears to be taking its toll.

Time Out Youth Center in Charlotte is seeing a spike in LGTBQ youth reaching out for counseling since the coronavirus crisis has required quarantine, as some don’t have an accepting home life.

“For a lot of our young people, family isn’t always the most supportive space,” said O’Neal Atkinson with the LGBTQ youth organization Time Out Youth Center in Charlotte.

Atkinson says it can go beyond feeling unaccepted and contribute to depression and anxiety.

“When you’re constantly given these messages that who you are is not normal, not right, or just looked down upon, those things are internalized,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson says the quarantine seems to be taking its toll.

“We’ve definitely seen an uptick in people accessing counseling over the past month,” Atkinson said. Atkinson says some have even expressed harmful thoughts.

“In counseling and even in our virtual spaces, we’ve had folks express that being at home is very traumatic and triggering,” Atkinson said. “If you already are struggling with depression or anxiety, it just really starts to chip away at a person’s resiliency.”

Atkinson says that’s what Time Out Youth Center’s facility typically helps with.“We are kind of the place where they get what they need to be able to navigate other spaces that are less inclusive,” Atkinson said.

Since the quarantine has closed their facilities, Atkinson says they’ve had an influx of youth using their digital platform.

“This is a space where even when they’re not physically in our center, they can chat in real-time with their friends,” Atkinson said.

While that may help some, Atkinson said families should try to find a way to coexist peacefully.

“Concepts like gender and orientation, people have very strong feelings about,” Atkinson said. “Even if maybe you don’t fully understand it or you even don’t necessarily agree with it, how we talk to someone or how we talk about someone is free.”

This story was produced by the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, a partnership of six media companies working together in an effort started by the Solutions Journalism Network and funded by The Knight Foundation.