Hope Starts With Us: Pride & LGBTQ+ Mental Health

JUN. 28, 2023

Hope Starts With Us: Episode 24

In this episode of NAMI’s podcast, guest host Matt Raymond, NAMI communications director, fills in for NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison Jr. to speak with Rosemary Ketchum (former board member of NAMI Greater Wheeling, WV, and first openly transgender official to be elected in West Virginia) and Frank Grimsley (body-positive, queer content creator, brand collaborator, licensed therapist, school social worker and TV personality, as featured on Netflix’s ‘The Circle’ and ‘How to Get Rich’) in honor of Pride Month about LGBTQ+ mental health. Tune in to hear more about LGBTQ+ creativity, self-care, suicide prevention and policies for support!

You can find additional episodes of this NAMI podcast and others at nami.org/podcast.

We hope this podcast encourages you, inspires you, helps you and brings you further into the collective to know: you are not alone.  

Episodes will air every other Wednesday and will be available on most major directories and apps.


Episode Audio:



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Featured Guests:

Frank Grimsley

Frank Grimsley

Frank Grimsley is TV Personality and Content Creator located in the DMV area. Frank is the Season 4 winner of popular Netflix reality show “The Circle” and gained praise for his ability to be a “ray of sunshine” despite facing some of life’s toughest battles. Frank also recently appeared on Netflix’s “How To Get Rich” where he shared his personal struggles with finances and how his upbringing has shaped his current relationship with money.

Since Frank’s television debut, he has amassed over 150,000 followers on Instagram and over 30,000 followers on TikTok. His “friends,” as he likes to call his supporters, have helped catapult his brand as a full time creator. Frank has worked with McDonald’s, Giant, Panera Bread and Face Reality Skincare to share his uniquely creative way to create content.

Frank prides himself on being a positive representation in the LGBTQ+ communities as not only an advocate, but a conqueror.

Rosemary Ketchum

Rosemary Ketchum

is a member of the City Council of Wheeling, West Virginia representing Ward 3, and a former board member of NAMI Greater Wheeling, WV. Ketchum serves as the Community Park Strategist at Grow Ohio Valley supporting the urban development and placemaking efforts of her city. She is also on the board of several organizations including the Friendlier City Project. Ketchum has been a returning guest on MSNBC and has been profiled by several outlets including The Today Show, Time Magazine, and CNN for her work in community organizing and politics.

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Episode Transcript:

[0:00] [background music]

Frank Grimsley: [0:01] Nothing else really matters. I just want to be my full self. I really don't care what my family thinks anymore. I don't care what people from back home think. I just want to be myself, and so every month for Pride is super special to me now.

Rosemary Ketchum: [0:13] Pride looks like leadership to me. Seeing other queer, LGBTQ folks across West Virginia and across the state or across the nation take on leadership roles, I think, is that next step of empowerment that we're after.

Matt Raymond: [0:28] Welcome to "Hope Starts with Us," a podcast by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I'm Matt Raymond, NAMI's director of communications, and today I have the privilege of serving as your guest host for this very special episode, with a community I personally identify with, about Pride and LGBTQ+ mental health.

[0:48] We started this podcast because we believe that hope starts with us. Hope starts with us talking about mental health. Hope starts with us making information accessible. Hope starts with us providing resources and practical advice. Hope starts with us sharing our stories. Hope starts with us breaking the stigma.

[1:07] If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health condition and has been looking for hope, we made this podcast for you. Hope starts with all of us. Hope is a collective. We hope that each episode with each conversation brings you into that collective to know you are not alone.

[1:24] Today, I'm pleased to be joined by former NAMI board member of NAMI, Greater Wheeling, West Virginia, and the first openly transgender person ever to be elected in West Virginia to the Wheeling City Council, Rosemary Ketchum.

[1:38] We have body‑positive, queer content creator, brand collaborator, licensed therapist, school social worker, and a TV personality you may know from shows on Netflix like "The Circle" and "How to Get Rich," Frank Grimsley. We're talking today in honor of Pride Month and about LGBTQ+ mental health.

[1:59] This subject is something that means a lot to me. I am a gay man, I have a gay brother, and my father is trans, actually came out at the age of 72. We have a lot of interest in conversations in our family about nature or nurture.

[2:13] I want to start out by thanking both of you for being here, for taking your time to join us. Very generous of you. I want to start by just asking each of you a very open‑ended question, which is what does Pride mean to you and why is celebrating Pride important for LGBTQ+ mental health? Frank, why don't you kick off?

Frank: [2:33] Wow, I just actually answered this question. Thank you, Matt, for just being so vulnerable and sharing that. That's such a beautiful journey. I just can't even imagine some of the conversations you all are having.

[2:47] Pride means to me, it's bigger than just me. A lot of you may know me from "The Circle," being the winner of The Circle. After that, I had the opportunity to be in McDonald's, a prop right here in DC on the McDonald's floor. It was the first time that I had ever posted about my just existence in the community.

[3:11] I grew up in a very small town in Alabama. I grew up in the church, so I never really felt free to be my full self. I knew after I went on TV that the world was going to see, OK, that's who that guy is. In that moment, I actually just was like, oh my God, nothing else matters. I just want to be my full self. I really don't care what my family thinks anymore.

[3:36] I don't care what people from back home think, I just want to be myself. Every month for pride is super special to me now because I've been living out loud, but now I'm just living out loud without any care about what anybody thinks. I post on social media for my family back home to see, they don't ask me any questions.

[3:59] They're probably already like, we know what's going on with him. Pride is so special to me just because I finally, at the age of 30, feel fully free and fully able to walk in my authentic truth. Just having that ability to do that is just so freeing and just an amazing journey. I'm grateful.

Matt: [4:23] Absolutely. We know the power of coming out and just being able to be who we are with people. I think the more people know LGBTIQ people in their own lives, the better the acceptance and the openness the conversations can be.

[4:37] Rosemary, let me ask you the same question, what is pride to you? Why do you think it's important for LGBTIQ+ mental health?

Rosemary: [4:45] Thank you so much, Matt, for sharing your story, and Frank, for sharing your story. It's great to meet both of you. I think something that Frank said really sticks out to me that, I'm also a 30 and pride looks very different. I'm actually 29, to be very clear, almost 30.

[5:03] Pride looks very different to me today than it did when I was 20. I think that carries through your life, what it means to celebrate your identity, what it means to feel empowered. If I was to answer this question 10 years ago, I would have a very different answer.

[5:17] Right now, to celebrate pride, for me, we talk about pride being a party. Pride is a party. Pride is a protest. When I see folks really living their lives unapologetically, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, I am really not just inspired by those people, but inspired to help encourage other people to take those kinds of leadership roles, whether that's in their own personal lives or in their profession.

[5:51] Right now, at 29, pride looks like leadership to me. Seeing other queer LGBTQ folks across West Virginia and across the state or across the nation take on leadership roles is really that next step of empowerment that we're really after.

Matt: [6:09] It coincides with the month of pride, but we've also seen a lot of attempts in legislatures, in some policymaker circles, and among advocates on various sides to attack pride, the entire notion of pride, and to really demonize the community. Some would say just to eradicate them, even put people back into the closet.

[6:32] I wanted to ask what your perspective was on that. How do you think that's impacting the community and how does it impact you personally? Frank, let me start with you on that.

Frank: [6:44] It's just so disheartening. To just echo what Rosemary said, pride now looks way different for me than I was at 20. At some point, when I was probably maybe 25 to 28, I felt like we were making strides for it. I feel like the strides that we had started to make are being pulled back from some members of our community.

[7:11] One of my favorite advocates is Ts Madison. She's an amazing transgender woman. I always just hear her talking about some of the things that they try to do to that part of our community. She even talks about how as someone in that community, how she doesn't feel supported by the other people that are in our community.

[7:35] As a Black gay man, it is a large part of my responsibility, too. We not only need allies outside of our community, we have the allyship within. That's the biggest piece that is missing because we're not only being struck from outside of our community, we're striking inside of our community.

[7:55] It's very dangerous because at this moment where they're trying to take us, we all need to be on the same front, whether we're Black, White, transgender, non‑binary, whatever it looks like. We all need to be united because if it came down to it, they would ship all of us off together. We need to be together.

[8:14] I just think whatever happens in our community, it impacts us all, whether we really know it or not. There may be an attack on the transgender community right now, but it very well could turn into an attack on Black gay men. It could turn into an attack on lesbian women. We just never know. It's very sad and it really concerns me a lot.

Matt: [8:39] It feels like in a lot of ways that trans issues now are being used as a proxy. For instance, it seems like society has moved on from same‑sex marriage as an issue of controversy. Some people are using different issues as a wedge.

[8:54] Rosemary, let me ask you the same question because you are a lawmaker. What's your view of these various laws and attacks, whether verbal or in terms of policy? Do you see any reason for optimism?

Rosemary: [9:12] To quote Taylor Swift, I've seen this film before. This is not the first time that vulnerable communities like the queer community, the Black community, or immigrant communities have been under attack by a certain, large minority of people.

[9:29] Similarly, Frank, in my early 20s when I was a community organizer and protester, I felt a lot of optimism about where we were, because the conversations we were having felt really productive. Today, I still feel a lot of optimism, particularly because I have a very local lens and I'm seeing the work happen on the ground, but I am frightened by what's happening.

[9:53] Social media in particular has really poisoned a generation of Americans into believing really harmful, dangerous, untrue things about their neighbors. In my experience, I ran for office. I knocked doors as an open trans person. It wasn't a secret. I was elected in arguably the most conservative state in the nation, we voted for Trump more than any other state.

[10:17] What that tells me among many other things is that people are far more likely to trust, to vote, to support a person because they know who they are, not because they read something about them.

[10:31] I'm hopeful that we're going to bring politics to a more local grassroots level, but that's not what's happening at the state and federal level in so many ways. For young queer people who feel really scared about the future, the future is very scary, but I think the only ways that we can actually make a difference is by getting involved and by running for office, frankly.

[10:56] I saw a gap in my community being served, and I decided step up, not because I was trans, but because there were plenty of issues that I wanted to work on, and I just so happen to be part of the LGBTQ community.

[11:07] If anybody is listening to this podcast right now and saying, you know what, I've really never considered running for office but I want to do something good, it's been the best experience of my life, and I couldn't recommend it anymore.

Matt: [11:18] Well, that's wonderful. It's great that it's been a positive experience for you. Now, I'm going to shift to a topic, it's a little bit more difficult, and content note to our listeners that it is the topic of suicides and suicide attempts. We know that within the LGBTQ+ community the rates of suicide and attempts are very high, unfortunately.

[11:40] The statistics are really sobering. We know that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are nearly four times more likely to suicide than heterosexual youths. Transgender adults are nearly nine times more likely to attempt suicide at some point in their lifetime, compared to the general population.

[11:59] According to a report just released by the Trevor Project, 41 percent of LGBTQ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, and young people who are transgender, non‑binary, and/or people of color reported higher rates than their peers.

[12:17] Why do you think these rates are so much higher for our community? What do you think are the extra challenges that our community faces? Let's start with you. Rosemary.

Rosemary: [12:29] It's a really important question. Any community that is used as a pawn and whose dignity and humanity is up for debate every single day, would struggle to feel welcome and to feel like they have a place on this Earth.

[12:45] Many of the young people that I speak to, I feel a lot of desperate emotions around what their future looks like in this country. I used to tell them that, hey, you just need to stay strong and not focus on those things. For example, stay in the state of West Virginia, sacrifice your happiness to fight for the state.

[13:08] I don't say that anymore in part because people deserve to feel safe and to live in places where they feel dignified. If there are communities that are creating sanctuaries for trans people, then those are safe communities.

[13:20] I don't plan to give up on the state of West Virginia, because in 2017, a Williams Institute study found that West Virginia had the highest proportional rate of trans youth anywhere in the country, and that's no accident. We do a lot to support our trans folks, but it is easier said than done.

[13:37] What I tell trans kids here in the state of West Virginia is to find an allied community, and to work with organizations like NAMI, the Trevor Project, and the ACLU because those are really incredible and important organizations that are doing a lot to reduce the risk of suicide.

[13:55] One of the other things I want to say is, I know a lot of white cis folks, who might not understand why self‑harm is so prevalent in the LGBT community. I try to describe to them that when they walk outside as a white person or as a cis person, it is their choice to get involved in politics.

[14:15] It is their choice, whether they want to ignore it or lean in. As queer people or as members of the black community, it is not our choice to be political. We are politicized every single day. We turn on the news, we scroll through social media, and our rights and humanities are up for debate.

[14:35] I think that there's a lot of work that we need to do to address challenges to healthcare, which is particularly one of the reasons why trans folks don't seek medical care because they're like, is it even legal for me to go to the doctors these days?

[14:49] We also need to be very honest about the harm that legislation is causing to the mental health of our folks. It's not an accident, and I wish more legislators would understand that.

Matt: [15:02] Frank, let me go to you on that. Again, specifically the issue of suicide and suicide attempts, what are your views on why maybe those rates are so much higher, and some of the challenges that LGBTQ+ community faces that other folks don't?

Frank: [15:19] I think to, again, echo what Rosemary said earlier, social media is really a driver for so many things that we are experiencing today. As not only a consumer, but as someone who does create content full‑time, as a general consumer, I consume a lot of social media every single day.

[15:44] I'm constantly reading the articles. I'm constantly following things and seeing what's going on. I see how our children can become hopeless. I can see how they can feel ostracized. I grew up as a fat black boy. I was probably one of the biggest people in my class, and I remember feeling alone.

[16:09] The only reason that I knew that I had that sense of love was because I had an amazing mom while she was still alive. She had that same experience, but she was a woman. She was able to tell me, I know you'll be fine.

[16:25] They're going to pick on you, this is how you prepare yourself for it. Don't let them beat you up with something that you already have power over.

[16:34] I say all that to say that I think that because our children have been afforded the opportunity to be able to identify as whatever they want to identify as and walk in their truth at such an early age, which is a privilege I didn't have, and I didn't have the courage to do, they are faced with so much more adversity as far as when it comes to the media, when it comes to legislation and things like that.

[17:02] It can be crippling because as an adult, as me and Rosemary just said, pride for us at 30 is different for what it used to be like. You have children now that are celebrating pride and I think that is so amazing.

[17:17] The amount of things that come with that can be crippling. Like Rosemary said as well, when there is not proper access to healthcare, not proper access to clinicians, who can they speak with? Their parents haven't experienced it. If they don't have any mentors in their life, they don't know anyone that has experience what they experience.

[17:39] A lot of times, you have a queer student and it's just one queer student in the whole grade level, and so they're the target. They're the ones that's picked on. If someone comes out as non‑binary, they're that non‑binary kid, they're that transgender kid, that's that gay kid.

[17:57] I think that because we haven't put in the proper supports for our children, which I think is intentional, we will continue to see the numbers continue to rise until the narrative shifts.

[18:12] As Rosemary said, that's why this all is priming for the future. It could be the target of the trans people. It could be targets of the gays. Then it could go to non‑binary people. We don't know which point of our community will be hit next.

[18:29] I think that's the scariest part. As adults, we can manage, and we can figure out, "This is what's happening. I'm understanding of it," but our children are in danger.

Matt: [18:42] Right. Frank, I found what you said about your mother particularly touching and insightful because we know the importance of support systems and whether that's your own family or chosen family, which is something that's even more important to LGBTQ people because quite often people come out to their families and they don't necessarily have a positive experience for that.

[19:05] I think that your situation is something that is very inspiring. This question is a related one. It's rather delicate, so feel free to answer it or not, or however you'd like. Have either of you struggled individually with thoughts of suicide? I can tell you that I certainly have, and the statistics definitely bear that out.

[19:30] I wanted to see what your own personal experience your own thoughts may have been with that. Frank, let's stick with you if we could.

Frank: [19:39] Absolutely. Growing up, like I said, I had the support. My family was amazing. I did lose my dad when I was five years old and my mom when I was 14. Losing those primary supports, knowing at the age of 14, I knew I was different. I knew that I was not like anybody else at my school.

[19:59] I was like, "What's really going on?" I didn't have anybody to talk to. I grew up in a small town. I didn't know anybody else that even looked like what I looked like. I didn't see representation in myself in media. I didn't see myself represented on any TV shows, so I've just felt like I was just here.

[20:17] In those moments, where my support has left me, I'm like, well, how am I going to continue to do this, because as I get older, life is going to get harder? I did contemplate in that moment, do I really want to continue to be here? The only reason that I chose to stay here, it's a story I tell all the time.

[20:36] On my computer, there was a picture of me and my three other best friends. I told myself I cannot leave them, because they're just going to not be able to survive, because I'm the funnest friend.

Matt: [20:47] [laughs]

Frank: [20:48] I always joke with one of my friends. I used to be like, you all saved me, because in that moment, I said you may not have this primary support from your parents, but you do have chosen family in your friendships. You do still have family members. You have to stick out the fight, because your life is going to help someone else's life.

[21:11] That's why I try to live every day and be positive, and just impart great things into the world, because you never know how a conversation you have can shift somebody's entire mindset.

[21:24] I'll never forget. I'll cut it up. I get long‑winded.

Matt: [21:27] That's OK.

Frank: [21:29] I'll never forget. After I won "The Circle," I was in Houston, Texas. I was at a pool party, and a young lady came on to me at the pool party. We're all having a great time. There were libations, and she came on to me and she held my hand, and she said, thank you. I was like, for what? She was like, you saved my life.

[21:51] I looked at her really strangely and I said, huh? She was like, I was so depressed and sad, and I happened to see your face on the bulletin for The Circle pop on my TV, and I never had watched it. I was like, he looks really happy. What's the show about?

[22:06] She said, I watched your show, and it was the first time I had laughed in six months. I'm telling you that I would not be here if you had not did that. That always triggers my brain to tell me that I needed to stay here, because all those years later, even if I just saved one person, that girl is still here because I just showed up and was kind. I think that we just need more kind people in the world.

Matt: [22:33] Yeah. That shows you the power sometimes, just being yourself can have such a powerful impact on somebody else.

[22:41] I do think just the fact that who you are, and being a communicator, and living your life as you do, unapologetically, and seeing how you interacted with other people, for instance, on The Circle, I think it's within the realm of possibility that just doing that, just being yourself, can save people's lives.

[23:01] It's such a great example. I mentioned my father earlier. She came out as transsexual/transgender about six years ago at the age of 72. She's been very, very upfront and public about her story and advocacy. It's just been so inspiring to me.

[23:19] I told her when she came out, I said it was just the moment I've never been more proud of her in my life. It really healed a little bit of a rift between us. That's hopefully a little bit of inspiration for someone.

[23:32] Rosemary, let me ask you. Are you comfortable talking about any particular moments or experiences you've had in the past with suicidal thoughts?

Rosemary: [23:40] Absolutely. I have had quite a linear mental health journey, thankfully, and I've not experienced suicidal ideations. I've thought about that because I speak to a lot of other trans folks and it is incredibly common.

[23:58] In my experience, it's a testament to my parents. My parents were blue‑collar folks. My dad worked in the local factory for as long as I can remember. My mom was a waitress, on and off raising myself, my two younger brothers, and my older sister. Not formally educated.

[24:15] When they knew that I was different at four and five years old, they had a lot of questions. It gave them anxiety, but they'd led with love. I took that for granted, assuming that, "Hey, they're my parents, they're supposed to love me," without realizing that that is not the case for so many people. Finding that family, whether it's biological or chosen, is really, really key.

[24:40] The other thing that gave me so much privilege and something I'm so lucky for is that I transitioned relatively early. I started being able to verbalize my gender identity at four and five. Then by 10, 11, 12, I started dressing in alignment with my gender identity. That really gave me the confidence to, now at 30 years old, feel like I am fully transitioned and an adult in the most empowered way.

[25:10] I think about your experience, Matt, in having a parent that transitions so much later in life. That takes so much courage, bravery, and patience. I think that Frank and I are very lucky that we all live in the 2020s now and this is a conversation we're allowed to have.

[25:36] Being transgender in the 1970s, the '80s, and even before then, it was just not acceptable. It was not a conversation that you would have. I feel very grateful for my mental health experience, but always keeping an eye on it. When we feel well, we forget that mental health exists.

[25:56] Mental health is only a conversation when it's a problem rather than saying, "OK, how do we make sure that we're feeling good and that we're doing things and we have a routine?" Those three things are really key.

Matt: [26:08] We say again and again, you are not alone. Look for those communities. Look for those sources of inspiration. They are out there. There are people who will love you absolutely the way you are. Just reach out and certainly reach out to NAMI if you're having any issues like that.

[26:25] Frank, we're about to shift into something you talked a little bit about earlier. A recent survey that NAMI and the Adobe Foundation conducted found out that young people and LGBTQ+ respondents were more likely than older adults and heterosexual respondents to say that engaging in a creative activity could lead to reduced feelings of depression or hopelessness and develop a sense of belonging in a community.

[26:51] Frank, you're a young person and you're creative, also a content creator, but you also work with young people as a school therapist. Let me ask, what has your experience been like personally merging or the interface between creativity and mental health? Do you see this as a form of self‑care for you even?

Frank: [27:12] Absolutely. I actually did leave my full‑time social work job to pursue content creating, but I still do have amazing opportunities to speak on mental health like this. I still pop into different kid settings every now and then.

[27:29] While I was a therapist in the schools, I maybe had a traditional therapy session maybe less than 10 percent of the time, because I believed in meeting the children where they are. I believed in inspiring them to think outside the box. I wanted to play games with them, so I understand how they play UNO. "How do you think? I wanted to ask you, what do you like to do? Do you like to do your hair?"

[27:57] We would talk about sneakers. We would talk about basketball. We would talk about any and everything because I wanted to inspire them to dream through their creativity, outside of just being smart in the classroom.

[28:12] We would go outside, play basketball and talk about therapy. I would be very immersed in their life experience and what they wanted to experience out of life. I definitely think that mental health and the creative space is so important because as an adult, I now operate fully in my creative space, and it is the most enjoyable experience that I have.

[28:36] Some days it is stressful, but most days, it saves my life, being able to walk in your authentic truth all the around in all facets of your life, whatever it is that you like to do. I believe that I'm so blessed to be able to even say that I'm a full‑time content creator.

[28:55] That is something that I love to do, and I'm able to do that full time and able to keep my lights on, keep gas in my car. I still go on trips. I remember how I felt when I would sit in the office some days and I didn't feel good.

[29:10] I have a chronic skin condition called hidradenitis suppurativa, and some days, I just don't feel good, some days, my body is inflamed. Last week, I had bumps all over my face and my body because my body was in inflammation period. Those days, I would just still have to push through and go to work, and not only think about my own mental health.

[29:30] I'm trying to save 10 20, kids. I'm breaking up fights and I'm just like, wow. That is why I always wanted to push the kids to operate in their creativity. What do you like to do? Because one day, you may be able to do that, and that be your thing.

[29:46] If you grow up in a situation where you're constantly pushed to go to school, constantly puts to go to college, not saying those things are not great because I did all those things, but what if your gift that you have down inside of you is just enough to do everything you ever needed it to be. I definitely think creativity is a great merger for just mental health.

Matt: [30:08] Yeah, Frank. One of my subversive opinions is that capitalism is anti‑art and just anti‑creativity. Particularly for young folks, like gen Z and gen Alpha, they're really anti 9:00 to 5:00 in the office, these kinds of things. Those conversations are almost exclusively about their mental health.

[30:33] Their like, I don't feel good if I don't get enough sleep, I don't feel good staying in an air‑conditioned office for 10 hours of my life every day. I think that's progress. I think that's definitely good. Their self‑worth is not no longer tied to what you can produce as a member of this economy, but what you can be and how you can feel good about yourself.

Matt: [31:01] Exactly. I think that's powerful.

Frank: [31:04] Yeah, I think that's all. Like I said, I grew up in a small town. I was pretty much raised, after my mom passed, by my elderly grandparents and my older uncles. They will always just be like, oh, go to school. I wanted to be a broadcaster journalism major, and I remember there was like, oh, that's not going to make you a lot of money.

[31:24] I just always think that I would have been such a great news anchor. Oh my God, and I just wish that. I'm glad to see that, like you said, the progress of, they're people that go and do exactly what they want to do. There are people that are news anchors and things like that that didn't even go to school for that.

[31:44] It's so inspiring because I remember growing, I would see my grandparents talked about how they had to work. They worked the same jobs for 30, 40 years, to get their retirement, just to make enough money now to just pay their bills. I'm just like that does not seem fun.

Matt: [32:03] I don't want that life.

Frank: [32:04] I do not. They were working jobs that they didn't even want. I know the times are much different now. I'm very grateful that at the age of 29, I can say I'll leave this job, and if I will need another one, I'll just find another one. I didn't even tell my family about it because I knew that they would have freaked out.

[32:28] I literally just told them, probably three months ago. I was like, yeah, I don't work at the school in the more, I just didn't tell y'all, and I've been doing just fine. Now they're calling me like every week, how you doing? You all right? I'm just like, yes, I'm fine. Like I will get another job if I need to. I work in mental health, there will always be work.

Matt: [32:49] Frank, let me follow up on the whole creativity aspect. You've touched on this a little bit, but you've been building up your presence on social media, as you mentioned, you've gained a lot of popularity by winning the circle, which is all about social media.

[33:03] On one hand, some people criticize social media for exacerbating or worsening young people's mental health, causing body dysmorphia with all the filters and so forth.

[33:14] On the other hand, the Trevor Project report that I mentioned earlier, showed that LGBTQ, transgender, and non‑binary young people see online spaces as their safest, most affirming places, even more affirming sometimes than their homes and schools. In what ways do you feel like social media can be a source for good and positivity?

[33:34] In what ways do you think people might need to protect their mental health on social media, if any? The good and the protective aspect of it.

Frank: [33:44] Social media can be an awesome tool if used correctly, as if a lot of things. There are great ways for you to use scissors, but they're also terrible things that can happen if you use them incorrectly, which is another important piece about education, proper support systems, especially for our children that are able to have access to social media at such a young age.

[34:05] My little cousin is eight and she's on TikTok and I think that is insane, but what parameters are the parents setting for those moments on the Internet. What type of relationship are you creating and that social media relationship? As you stated, I have gained a lot of followers on social media in part for my ability to go on a show and win it.

[34:30] Also, I think people stick around because they're very in tune with the journey, and I'm very good at storytelling. I'm very vulnerable in my captions. I tell all my business to social media, not all of the things, but I tell the parts of the story that I feel will help resonate with people in my community. I go to it when I just feel like someone needs something.

[34:52] I know that people look to my post sometimes, whether it's just me walking across the street looking confident, or I'm telling a deep story about how I may miss my mom and I'm grieving today. I think the authenticity in that is empowering, and I think that if used correctly, it can be an amazing tool.

[35:12] I don't want people to only have the support of their social media community, and only have the support of people online, because as good as it can be, it can be just as bad. Under a post about me grieving my mom, I had people tell me, "Oh my god. I know she's proud of you," etc. Then I had two or three people say, "Eff your mom. She deserves to die."

[35:41] I've seen those comments. I've seen those DMs. However, I've already trained my brain. I don't live in the comments. If it's not positivity in there, I quickly jump out. That's how I protect my mental health.

[35:55] I think some people, when they get so invested in their community, especially if you start from childhood and you're always on the Internet, and some of the moments where you need to take a step back and you lean into the Internet, those very same people that you think will lift you up will quickly attempt to tear you down.

[36:16] People may be watching the show, but everybody's not really there to see the good in the show. They're there to criticize. We have to be mindful that it's two sides to that social media game.

Matt: [36:29] It's unfortunate that so many people like that exist. I would also point out that a lot of social media platforms and tools have different settings and tools built into them that people can get some of those protections. I would definitely encourage parents to be aware of those and to work with your kids on that.

[36:52] Rosemary, we framed this whole discussion in terms of self‑care. I want to ask you, what do you do for self‑care? Does it involve creative pursuits or social media, or do you have other safe spaces?

Rosemary: [37:03] Self‑care, I don't read the comments. There are more things that I don't do for self‑care than I do for self‑care. [laughs] I don't read social media comments. I utilize social media as a tool for in‑person connection as much as possible.

[37:21] As Frank mentioned, I do think that we use it maybe as a crutch when we don't have the opportunity to meet people in person, but it's important to use it that way. I love music. I play a couple of instruments. I'm a swifty. I was at the Aries tour concert. That is part of my self‑care.

Matt: [37:44] Did you get in the building? [laughs]

Rosemary: [46:14] I got in the building. I was in a very faraway seat, but there's no bad seat at a Taylor Swift concert. That's its own sense of community where you have 80,000 people with shared values singing the same lyrics. That's very powerful. Those are a couple of the things that I do for my own mental health. It's a cliché phrase, but boundaries are key, and I never learned.

[38:14] There was never a How to Set Boundaries 101 class when I was in college or when I was in high school or middle school, and so there was a lot of trial and error.

[38:23] Letting people into my space to interrupt my peace and having to recognize that didn't make me feel good and that's not OK. That's really tough when you're a public figure, because people feel that you owe them your vulnerability, and your life, and your time, and all of these things.

[38:42] In a certain way, you do, particularly if you're an elected official, but it's that much more important that you develop really strong and healthy boundaries. There are plenty of opportunities to do that. I'm sure Naomi has some great resources on boundary building.

[38:56] Each person addresses that and takes a different approach to setting boundaries. That has done miracles for my own mental journey.

Matt: [39:06] That's great advice. Even though the month of June is coming to an end, Pride is really something that is supposed to happen all year long. People in the LGBTQ+ community, we don't stop holding on to our identities when this month comes to a close. We don't stop needing support or resources.

[39:26] We talked a little bit about some of the activities and reactions of public policy makers and legislators, but Rosemary, let me start out with you, because you've been a relentless advocate in your public service for our community and so many other communities over the past years.

[39:41] In 2020, as we mentioned, you became the first openly transgender person to be elected in West Virginia, and you continue to be actively involved in politics.

[39:50] Coming at it from that perspective, I wanted to see what you think, not just yourself or other people in the LGBTQ+ community can do, but what can other political leaders do across the spectrum to help with our community's mental health? Also, what do you think the community more broadly speaking can do to support our mental health?

Rosemary: [40:12] It's a really important question. Thank you for asking. I think that one of the most important thing that thoughtful legislators can do is hold their colleagues accountable. Usually, we think that it's enough to be an ally or even enough to be in the community and be in office, but it isn't. We have to look across the aisle and hold our fellow electeds accountable.

[40:36] That's really difficult when they're on your side. It's really easy, when they're across the aisle and you disagree on a thousand things, to call them out. It's really tough when there is one issue that splits you. It might be transgender healthcare. It might be book banning. It might be something.

[40:53] It's really easy, and I see it all the time, whether it's at the local level or at the state level. Legislators go, "Oh, I don't want to burn this bridge on this one issue." That's really tough because that one issue is thousands of West Virginians, is hundreds of thousands of Americans that are dealing with this, millions of parents and allies.

[41:16] That's really hard, but it pays dividends in the very end. That's something that I've taken on. Thankfully, my other members of city council are quite thoughtful and really good. They hold themselves accountable in many ways.

[41:30] If you're not in elected office, a couple of things that you can do. First and foremost, attending your city council meetings or your county commission meetings. In small towns like the city of Wheeling, we have less than 30,000 people, not a lot of people reach out to us. Not a lot of people come to our meetings.

[41:48] I know that's similar across our state. Your presence at a city council meeting, you cannot underestimate the power that that has just being a face for your electeds, not just to hold them accountable, but to also give them advice and ideas.

[42:02] I know a lot of people, it's really hard to make the distinction between ignorance and bigotry, because people who are bigoted, inherently, we're not going to get them. We can't argue with those folks. They're quite illogical. They're not there to build policy with you.

[42:16] People who genuinely are ignorant to the issue and just don't understand, they can be helped. We can do a lot to get them on the right side. One of your obligations potentially as an ally or a member of the queer community is to do that for your local legislators.

[42:35] My last piece of advice is that sometimes it is easier to replace a politician than to convince them to do their jobs. Again, running for office at whatever level you're comfortable with is really important. Win or lose, it's really important to run because you get to change the conversation.

Matt: [42:55] Frank, let me ask the same question from you and your perspective. What can people who are listening or watching right now do to support LGBTQ+ mental health? Maybe there's a parent listening who doesn't know how to support their child or a friend, a classmate, a colleague, or someone along those lines. What would you say to them?

Frank: [43:14] Rosemary did a great job of answering the question. My answer will be very simple. I would say show up for those people that you want to ally for as the way you want someone to show up for you if you were in that very same situation. A lot of people think that we chose to be gay or people chose to live these different lives.

[43:36] I'm just like, "I just woke up like this, honey. The life chose me." When people are able to actually conceptualize the thought that how things are for us in our community, how disparaging it is, do you really think that someone would be like, "Oh, let me check this box and check this lifestyle to live?"

[44:03] We're just trying to live our best life in the most authentic way as we can and be happy in that life. A lot of times, the allyship is literally just showing up for the fight and not just showing up in June, continuing to be an advocate, continuing to be an ally, and just continuing to treat us as if we're people, because at the end of the day, every day, we are people just the same.

[44:29] We're all different, but we all really come from the same place. I really wish that people would understand that aspect of it all. To me, it's really very simple. I love regardless. I love the dog that we have in this house just as much as I love my neighbor that I see maybe once a month.

[44:52] If my dog is in trouble, I'm going to help him. If the neighbor is in trouble, I'm going to help her. We just need to lead with love and not just in the month of June, not just during Black History Month, not just during all these other random months. We should really get back to just being kind to one another.

Matt: [45:14] Again, great advice and it's very inspiring. As we come close to the end here, there's a question that we like to ask every single one of our guests.

[45:23] [background music]

Matt: [45:23] The world can sometimes be a difficult place and often, it can be hard to hold on to hope. That's why for every episode, we dedicate the last couple minutes of our podcast to a special segment that we call Hold On to Hope. Frank and Rosemary, can you tell us what helps you hold on to hope? Rosemary, let's start with you.

Rosemary: [45:42] There are a lot of things that allow me to hold on to hope. First and foremost, being able to pull people into politics has been so rewarding, because I think politics, by and large, is intimidating for a lot of people, and it doesn't make them feel comfortable and it feels icky.

[46:03] Part of the work that I've decided to take on, as a member of our local city council, is to help people understand what their role is as a member of our community. I think that that has made folks feel empowered and more willing to come and advocate for their communities.

[46:22] Whether that is because they've got a pothole on their street or they don't feel protected by the current law that we have, people feel much more compelled to do that work. I think I'm most inspired, of that group, the kids who are involved, who really don't know a time before social media. They don't know a time before political uprising.

[46:42] They don't remember a time before a recession and [laughs] all of the incredible political turmoil that we're experiencing, and so they don't know anything else but to fight. I'm grateful that we've been able to build a channel for those folks, so that gives me some hope.

Matt: [47:01] Frank, what helps you hold on to hope?

Frank: [47:03] I hold on to hope because I'm able to have these type of conversations, and I learn something new out of all of these conversations. I've learned something from both of you all today.

[47:14] I grew up in the South, and I used to sit in front of my floor model TV, and just to be able to have some of the conversations and learn some of the things that I've learned is really inspiring to me. I hope that everyone listening to this leaves with some inspiration to just keep holding on.

[47:33] There was a time where I was thinking about not even being here, and the fact that I'm here is a reason to hold on to hope. Rosemary, I was going to comment on that earlier, how you had the experience of not even having any type of suicidal thoughts. As someone that identifies as transgender, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that.

[47:56] That, to me, says progress. That, to me, is inspiring, that makes me smile. Matt, you talked about how your father is now identifying as a transgender, all these years later. To me, that's inspiring.

[48:13] You kept that inside of you for so long, and I know the freedom that she now feels, that makes me want to hold on to hope, because I see stories like the stories that I was told today, and we just have to keep. That's why our stories are important. That's why advocacy is important. You never know who will hear this and say, "Oh, well, you should go listen to this."

[48:37] You don't know who may be listening to this, and they may be thinking of, "Oh, I'm getting tired of the fight," and then hear someone still living, still pushing, still fighting. It's these moments that remind me to hold on to hope, because we're getting somewhere, even if the journey is slow.

[48:57] I always try to tell myself that the world is spinning, and I don't even know it, so if the world is spinning and I don't know it, then something good is on the way.

Matt: [49:09] Before we close out, let me just ask either of you, were there any questions that I didn't ask, that you would like to answer? Any closing thoughts that you might have? Rosemary, let me start with you.

Rosemary: [49:19] No questions that I think you didn't ask. I think those were great. Final thoughts, every community should be a mental health sanctuary, and every city council or community organization should be having conversations about what mental health looks like in their community.

[49:38] I care a lot about urban planning and how a city actually influences behavior. Those are conversations that we're just starting to have, maybe 50 years too late, and so I encourage folks to think about mental health when they think about how to build a city or a organization or how to approach situations with their family.

[49:59] I think that through the lens of mental health, so much more can be accomplished than we're doing today.

Matt: [50:06] Frank, any parting thoughts from you?

Frank: [50:08] I had a great time, I do know that.

Matt: [50:10] [laughs]

Frank: [50:11] I definitely don't have any questions. I appreciate the opportunity to even come on the platform or speak. Matt and Rosemary, you guys have been amazing, and I really enjoyed it. I love being in conversations and spaces where I get to learn something and actually get to...

[50:27] As a content creator, I use my brain, but I feel like I use a different side of it now than what I used to when I was working directly in mental health. Just having the conversations, being able to be vulnerable, allowing me to have the space to share. Even creating and cultivating a space where I feel comfortable to share and be vulnerable, I think that is so important.

[50:49] I think, like Rosemary said, we need to continue to have the conversations, even though they are late. We must continue them, because this is how you cultivate a space that is full of kindness, full of love, and full of joy, and makes the world a better place.

[51:05] [background music]

Frank: [51:06] I'm grateful that you all thought of little old me coming on to talk to y'all.

[51:10] [laughter]

Matt: [51:13] Frank Grimsley, Rosemary Ketchum, thank you so much for your time. I thought it's been a very wonderful discussion. Certainly, it helps June go out on a high note as we come to the end of Pride month. This has been "Hope Starts With Us," a podcast by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

[51:30] If you're looking for mental health resources, you're not alone. For more information about NAMI, Pride month, or LGBTQ+ resources, visit our website at nami.org/pride. To connect with a NAMI helpline and find local resources, you can visit nami.org/help, text "HelpLine" to 62640, or dial 800‑950‑NAMI or 6264.

[51:56] To reach the Trevor Project's LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention lifeline, visit thetrevorproject.org/get‑help. You can text "START" to 678‑678 or dial 1‑866‑488‑7386. If you're otherwise experiencing an immediate suicide, substance use, or mental health crisis, please call or text 988 to speak with a trained support specialist, or visit 988lifeline.org.

[52:29] Always remember, you're not alone. Show pride in June and every month of the year. Thanks for joining us.

[52:34] [music]


About the Guest Host:

Matt Raymond

Matt Raymond

Matt Raymond is a veteran communicator of more than 25 years. He has served as Director of Communications at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) since July 2021.

He came to NAMI from the International Food Information Council — a trade association and educational foundation — where he was Senior Director of Communications beginning in 2013.

Prior to that, Matt was Director of Communications at the Library of Congress for nearly five years, where he led communications and was chief spokesperson for the 3,800-staff federal agency. He won a PRSA Silver Anvil Award of Excellence in the integrated communications category.

Matt was previously Director of Speechwriting at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Secretary Ann M. Veneman and Acting Communications Director for Secretary Mike Johanns. He played leading roles in issues including the announcement of the first U.S. case of mad cow disease, as well as the launch of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Food Guide Pyramid.

He then joined Veneman as Senior Communications Adviser when she was appointed executive director of UNICEF in New York City. He worked on Capitol Hill for eight years as Communications Director for two Senators and as Chief of Staff for a Congressman.

A graduate with distinction from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism with a degree in journalism and a minor in political science, Matt began his career as an on-air, small-market TV reporter. He was a national finalist in the William Randolph Hearst Journalism Awards and a regional winner in the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards.

Matt was born in Minnesota and grew up in Wyoming. He is active in his community, having served four terms as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Washington, D.C.’s Logan Circle area. He was elected Chairman of the eight-member commission for one term.

In his downtime, he enjoys trivia, singing, sports, gadgets and playing with his dog Boomer.

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