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K

The road to self-acceptance

The day that changed K’s life may not sound all that remarkable. It consisted of sitting around a table, chatting with other young people about life and nibbling on snacks. Just an everyday gathering for some, but for K, a visit to the Youth Advocating Anti-Homophobia Awareness (YAAHA) support group was an experience full of real connections that led to a path toward self-acceptance.  

The group, offered by United Way agency YouthLink, provides young people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities a safer inclusive place and space to participate in peer discussions. The youth mental health agency also offers other supports, including walk-in counselling sessions, educational programs, and parenting and family resources. 

While those were important resources, for K, “the biggest benefit of the group was connecting with a new community and gaining a different perspective.”  

In Grade 9, several friends came out, raising questions about K’s own sexuality. It was a challenging time. Existing struggles with depression and anxiety were compounded by worries about what family members would think. “It was difficult not being able to show others the real me,” says K. 

A friend suggested that they check out YAAHA together. It took multiple nudges, but once there, K’s perception changed almost immediately: “I didn’t have to hide the fact that I may or may not like girls.” 

The group provided a sense of community and belonging. And in the process, K met other teens who were dealing with similar mental health issues—encouragement that in time things would get better.  

“It felt good to be around people who didn’t know who they were, but were OK with figuring it out,” says K. “They were still laughing and smiling despite going through challenging situations.” 

Years later, K still attends the group every few months. One of the main reasons: the support from Melodie, the group facilitator. “She’s awesome and always greets me with a bright smile. I can talk to her about anything and everything,” says K, who plans to study psychology one day. “I’m hoping to help other young people just like me.”