When Daniel Everhart lost his brother Adam almost four years ago, he lost a part of himself. He spends many nights screaming out to Adam in his dreams and waking up sobbing.
“Losing Adam was like having a piece of my life that was so connected to my daily existence removed without any notice,” Daniel said. “He was my little brother.”
While Adam didn’t die by suicide — he died at 34 years old from accidental alcohol poisoning — he had attempted suicide in the past. After coming out as a gay man in his young teenage years, many of the people closest to him bullied, isolated, and rejected him. And as a result, he struggled deeply with his mental health. He dealt with bulimia, anorexia, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, a lack of self-worth, drug and alcohol abuse, and social isolation.
“He is the bravest person I have ever known. Many people live their entire lives in a lie. He didn’t, and he paid the price,” Daniel said.
‘All you need is love’
According to multiple studies, what we need most to overcome mental and physical health challenges is a loving support system — but the unconditional kind. Daniel has seen this firsthand.
“The process of coming out that is forced upon anyone who isn’t a heterosexual is one that can lead to good things and it can lead to horrible things. What should be first and foremost is unconditional love,” Daniel said. “In Adam’s case there was love there, but I know that it was seen as conditional to him.”
Daniel explained Adam wasn’t embarrassed about being gay, but he felt like he would never be enough — and that stuck with him.
Adam’s struggles mirror that of many LGBTQIA+ individuals. According to a SAMHSA study, LGB adults are more than twice as likely to experience a mental illness than their heterosexual peers. And according to a CDC survey, LGB high school students are four times as likely to have attempted suicide.
What organizations like PFLAG can do
But organizations like PFLAG can help 一 Daniel feels confident about that. He’s a board member of the PFLAG chapter in Lexington, N.C. who just wants a better, more empathetic world and community.
Daniel explained that PFLAG is a diverse organization that provides support, advocacy, education, and love to members of the LGBTQIA+ community and their loved ones. It’s composed of people who just want to help. They can connect people with suicide resources, housing, counseling, and more. Additionally, the Lexington PFLAG hosts support sessions every third Thursday of the month.
“We are that extra pat on the back. We will hold you as you cry. We will hold your hand when others won’t,” Daniel said. He wants to give others the support his brother needed.
“When my brother opened up to everyone as gay, there wasn’t an organization to reach out to for support… The options were slim to none in regards to finding educational and supportive experiences that could’ve helped my brother’s coming out to not be a lifelong remembrance of pain,” Daniel said. “I can only speak for myself when I say that PFLAG would have been a haven of understanding for me.”
Daniel also believes that an organization like PFLAG could’ve saved his brother. “What a difference this could have made for my brother… If only his experiences had been different… He could absolutely still be alive today,” he said.
At its core, PFLAG is a group of people who want to support individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community. “PFLAG is an organization, but what I have come to realize is that we are just people who care,” Daniel said. “We are here and we are here to stay.”
No matter who you or who your loved ones are, Daniel wants you to know this: “Just make sure people know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love them and that they are worthy of all the good in this world. You don’t have to understand things about a person to love them and to make them feel loved.”
For more information on the Lexington chapter, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website, www.pflaglexingtonnc.org.
For more information on other PFLAG chapters, check out www.pflag.org/find-a-chapter.
If you or a loved one have considered suicide, you are not alone and professionals can help you. Please call the Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.
Ashley Broadwater is a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, where she studied Public Relations in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. She’s passionate about mental health, body positivity, relationships, Halloween, and Dad jokes.