Caitlin Ryan, PhD, ACSW, a pioneer in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) health and mental health will receive the John E. Fryer Award from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) at their annual meeting on May 18, 2013 for major contributions to the mental health and well-being of LGBT people. The award is presented by the APA in association with the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists and given in honor of Dr. John Fryer, a gay psychiatrist who played a crucial role in prompting the American Psychiatric Association to review the scientific data and to remove homosexuality from the APA’s diagnostic list of mental disorders in 1973.
A clinical social worker, researcher and policy expert, Dr. Ryan’s groundbreaking contributions to LGBT health and mental health have spanned nearly 40 years through early community development, program implementation, research, policy and systems change. Dr. Ryan received her clinical training with children, adolescents and adults in inpatient psychiatric and community mental health programs. Dr. Ryan has an undergraduate degree with a concentration in human sexuality from Hunter College, a master’s degree in clinical social work from Smith College School for Social Work, and a doctorate in public policy with a focus on health policy from Virginia Commonwealth University. She directs the Family Acceptance Project at SF State University.
Prior to the AIDS epidemic in the 1970s, her early organizing activities helped establish a national network of LGBT health and mental health providers throughout the United States that provided a platform to address critical LGBT health, mental health and AIDS-related issues. Dr. Ryan pioneered community-based AIDS services at the beginning of the epidemic; initiated the first major study to identify lesbian health needs in the late1970s and early 1980s; and has worked to implement quality care, evidence-based practice and family-related services for LGBT youth since the early 1990s.
Recognizing that the approach to serving LGBT adolescents focused either on individual or peer support, and that research and practice had not included families – who play a critical role in the health and well-being of children and adolescents, overall – Dr. Ryan launched the Family Acceptance Project in 2002 to study LGBT adolescents in the context of their families, culture and faith communities and to develop the first evidence-based family intervention model to promote healthy futures for LGBT children and youth.
After publishing seminal research that established the essential role that families play in the health and well-being of their LGBT children, Dr. Ryan and her team from the Family Acceptance Project at SF State University have been developing evidence-based family education resources and intervention approaches to help ethnically and religiously diverse families support their LGBT children to prevent health and mental health risks, placement in custodial care and homelessness and to promote well-being. These include the first “Best Practice” resources for suicide prevention for LGBT youth and young adults designated by the national Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention, and published in multi-lingual and faith-based versions.
Dr. Ryan’s work has helped guide the delivery of care for LGBT populations through foundational policy and practice guidelines. These include co-authoring the first guidelines on AIDS policy for members of Congress, state and local officials that provided the framework for more than half of the recommendations for the first U.S. Presidential Commission on AIDS; co-authoring the first clinical care guidelines and the first guide to health and mental health care for LGBT youth for the Heath Resources and Services Administration; and co-authoring the first guidelines for care of LGBT out-of-home youth published by the Child Welfare League of America and disseminated to child welfare systems across the country.
Dr. Ryan’s work has been recognized by all of the major mental health professional associations, including the American Counseling Association’s Counselors for Social Justice, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychological Association’s Division 44 which awarded her the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award; and many other professional and community organizations and groups.
Dr. Ryan served as a member of the Committee on LGBT Health for the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences and the LGBT Populations Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. She trains on her work across the U.S. and internationally. And she is collaborating with agencies, organizations, faith communities and providers to develop an international movement of family acceptance to promote wellness and healthy futures for LGBT children, youth and young adults.
The Family Acceptance Project is a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that is designed to: 1) decrease health and mental health risks and promote well-being for LGBT children and adolescents; 2) strengthen and help ethnically and religiously diverse families to support their LGBT children; 3) help LGBT youth stay in their homes to prevent homelessness and the need for custodial care in the foster care and juvenile justice systems; 4) inform public policy and family policy; and 5) develop a new evidence-based, family model of wellness, prevention, and care for LGBT children and youth. For more information, please visit: http://familyproject.sfsu.edu.