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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – For many, Pride Month is an exciting time with the parade and celebratory events across Columbus.

But for some members of the LGBTQ+ community struggling with mental health, the joy that’s supposed to come with Pride is a bit more challenging.

“Today and every day, 365, we tell our young people, we want them to know they are extraordinary, they are radiant, they are beautiful and creative,” Kaleidoscope Youth Center Executive Director Erin Upchurch said.

For Upchurch, Pride means visibility and representation.

“I think Pride is about what it means to people,” Upchurch said. “For our young folks, maybe that doesn’t feel safe for them. Some people can’t even be out.”

Upchurch didn’t grow up with access to the community that she’s now trying to help create. Even so, she said celebrations during Pride might be something different for everyone.

“Just imagine that your validity, your existence, your humanity was centered in this very public, perhaps global, conversation,” Upchurch said. “How are you supposed to wake up every day and feel good about your life?”

With LGBTQ+ rights at the forefront of political discussions both nationally and statewide, it’s one of the reasons experts say those expected to feel joy might instead experience an internal discord during Pride.

“There is a lot of joy and celebration that comes with coming out and being comfortable in your own skin and telling the world who you are and how things go for you,” said Netcare Corporation CEO and Medical Director Dr. Brian Stroh. “The process by which we get to that can often be a challenge though.”

Netcare Access has provided mental health support services to the central Ohio community for decades, staffing clinicians 27 hours a day, seven days a week to help connect those in need to the appropriate resources.

“Some of those steps occur here at Netcare, some of them are referrals to other programs in the community,” Stroh said.

Stroh said the layer of stigma surrounding mental health is improving, thanks to young people like that the ones Kaleidoscope serves every day.

“It’s important that we let people know that there is help out there so that when they choose to make that step, they know they’re supported,” Stroh said.

As events ramp up, beneath the rainbow-clad celebrations, Upchurch said, is a navigation of inner versus outer self.

Whether it’s a monetary donation or simply serving as an ally for the first time, Upchurch reminds there are many ways to show up and build community during Pride.

“If there ever was a time to celebrate individuals and communities, or to affirm, or to go that extra mile to say, ‘Hey, you belong, and we want you to know that,’” Upchurch said. “Let this month be the month that happens.”