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From Learned Helplessness to Hope: A Case Study

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The It Gets Better movement – led by Dan Savage, an author, columnist, and a journalist – emerged in the United States in late 2010 as an attempt to bring the LGBTQ+ adolescents’ suicide ‘epidemic’ taking place in the social media to an immediate halt. In this paper, I will briefly tell the story of the It Gets Better movement and their hope campaign as a response to the eleven teen suicides in the Fall of 2010. I will analyze Seligman’s learned helplessness and aversive stimuli concepts (Maier & Seligman, 1976) in regard to the community in concern. I will question Snyder’s (and group) Hope Theory in relation to the social negative conditions experienced by LGBTQ+ youth at that time and today. I believe that in order to understand these tragic fatalities of suicide, it is not enough to examine hope on the individual level. It should be linked into a broader context of family, community, and nation.

Therefore, I will examine other approaches that I find more suitable; I will look into Weingarten’s human Interconnectedness views about hope and ‘doing hope’, as a key to understand the emergence of the It Gets Better movement and its role in mobilizing the LGBTQ+ community to help the young generation to vision hope, future, life. I will then discuss Dan Savage’s action in posting a YouTube video – resembling Madigan’s campaign letters and counter-viewing work with the narrative, as well as the positive outcomes of this ‘intervention’ in the context of collective adversity. My conclusion is that when some individuals with the same typical characteristics are in deep distress and are emotionally unavailable to ‘think’ hope, we need to look at hope and hopelessness in the societal context of adversity, as intergenerational trauma, and deliver hope also in this context, meaning the community should be there for them.

Background – Fall 2010 and It Gets Better Campaign in USA

By 2010 the internet became a web-based communication tool. Social media became a critical part of daily conversation. Individuals of all ages were able to connect with a multitude of other individuals that they could not meet by other means and offer thoughts on shared issues that were important to them. It has given rise to all sorts of opportunities. Unfortunately, mass-suicide was one of them. The horrible fall of 2010 is marked as a new low in the history of the LGBTQ+ community in the United States. It seemed that every day there were new reports of a gay kid killing themselves due to intolerance and hostility.

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