ST. GEORGE (ABC4 News) – A new suicide prevention center for Southern Utah’s LGBTQ+ community is expected to open as early as this fall.
The non-profit Encircle will open its third LGBTQ+ resource center in the heart of downtown St. George, with plans to reconstruct the home located at 190 S. 100 E. into a safe place for youth and their families.
Encircle currently operates two other homes in Utah: one in Salt Lake City and another in Provo.
Dixie State University student Kage Simmons said they moved out of their family’s home after not being accepted as non-binary. Simmons identifies as gay and agender.
“At home, I have to be a different person, so living a double life can be very exhausting,” said Simmons.
Simmons said the LGBTQ+ community lacks direct services in the St. George area, so the new Encircle center is greatly needed to feel safe and supported.
“You try to use the bathroom that is closest to your gender identity and you could get beat up or yelled at, so there’s a lot of fear involved,” they added.
Recent data from the Utah Department of Health shows that Utah has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the nation, with St. George above the state’s average.
LGBTQ+ youth experience isolation and bullying at higher rates and are 3 times more likely to commit suicide compared to their peers.
Encircle offers free and subsidized counseling for LGBTQ+ individuals and families and support groups where vulnerable youth can learn to navigate who they are.
In a statement, Encircle’s chief executive officer Stephenie Larsen said, “I want the LGBTQ+ young people living in St. George and its surrounding communities to have a safe place that they can come to and find a community that embraces and accepts them just as they are.”
The nonprofit is relying heavily on donations during reconstruction. To help support the project, click here.