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Susannah Weis Frigon, interim president of The Erie Community Foundation; Amanda Sissem, vice president for Edinboro University advancement and alumni engagement and campus administrator; Chuck Scalise, chair of the LBGT+ Endowment; Denise Kolivoski, executive director of NAMI of Erie County; and Dr. Mandy Fauble, assistant professor in Edinboro’s social work Department and chair of the grants committee of the LBGT+ Endowment.

EDINBORO – Nearly 10% of LGBTQIA+ students living with mental-health conditions find themselves fighting a double stigma — experiencing prejudice based on sexual and/or gender identity as well as mental wellness. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, this population of students and youth have been found to be at significant increased risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

Based on these statistics, the LBGT+ Endowment and family of funds at the Erie Community Foundation announced Wednesday support of 20 mental-health sessions for more than 100 Edinboro University students who identify as LGBTQIA+.

The funds will be awarded to NAMI of Erie in the amount of $4,495.

“With the weight of the ongoing pandemic and the toll that it has taken on our students, their families, our campus community and our larger communities — challenging the already stressful times students face when pursuing their college degree — we are incredibly thankful for the support of the LGBTQIA Fund, the Erie Community Foundation and NAMI.” said Amanda Sissem, vice president for Edinboro University advancement and alumni engagement and campus administrator. “Our students are resilient. They work hard, they persevere and they squarely face — and often embrace — challenges. But none of us should face our challenges alone. Sometimes, we need help.”

Edinboro University faculty member Dr. William J. Koehler will present diversity training to NAMI of Erie staff, volunteers and instructors with the goal of increasing the diversity of NAMI referrals and knowledge of the LGBTQIA+ communities in Erie County.

NAMI of Erie’s goal is to have more than 100 students attend the support group and be positively impacted.

“We celebrate that we’re here and that we’re having this conversation together,” said Dr. Mandy Fauble, assistant professor in Edinboro’s Social Work Department and chair of the grants committee of the LGBT Community Endowment. “In Erie County, the behavioral health needs of the LGBTQIA+ community are critical. We know that we are going to be helping a community at risk for depression, suicide, isolation and disconnect.”

Also speaking during the gathering on Edinboro’s campus were Susannah Weis Frigon, interim president of The Erie Community Foundation; Denise Kolivoski, executive director of NAMI of Erie County; and Chuck Scalise, chair of the LBGT+ Endowment.

Edinboro University’s LGBTQIA+ Commission facilitates a University environment where all sexual orientations and gender expressions are recognized equally and inclusively. For more information, visit the LGBTQIA+ Commission website.

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