Stronger bonds between parents and LGBTQ youth serve as a focus for new mural in downtown St. George

ST. GEORGEOn Saturday afternoon, over 200 people gathered at the west end of Town Square park for the unveiling of a new mural dedicated to improving communication between parents and their children.

Jill Mortensen, a local parent advocate, and her family interact with the new mural at Town Square Park, St. George, Utah, Nov. 20, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Parents Empowered, St. George News

The Go Together mural is a product of collaboration between the city of St. George, Parents Empowered, Encircle LGBTQ+ Family & Youth Center, REACH4HOPE Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Southwest Utah Public Health Department and the Washington County School District.

Encircle COO Jacob Dunford said the mural’s message is especially meaningful to LGBTQ youth, as without loving support they face higher risks of suicide, depression and dangerous drug and alcohol behavior.

 “Through personal and professional experience, I have seen the unifying power of this mural – whatever your child’s journey, go together,” Dunford said. “Even more personally, that message has saved my life.”

The new mural features a stylized depiction of Southern Utah’s natural scenery and promotes the benefits of strong parent-child relationships. As part of the event, families and individuals in attendance were invited to participate in a slow-roll bike ride around the park to emphasize the importance of quality time spent together.

Members of the Washington County Youth Coalition helped to organize and support the new mural’s unveiling, St. George, Utah, Nov. 20, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Parents Empowered, St. George News

Tiffany Clason, Parents Empowered member and executive director of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, encouraged parents at Saturday’s event to spend 15 minutes each day with their children and focus on building strong trust in their relationships.

“I’m a mom of a 10-year-old and a 4-year-old, and I’m having conversations with my 10-year-old now building that relationship of trust and trying to bond with him,” Clason said. “As he gets older and he has to make difficult decisions, he will know that I love him, I’m by his side and I’ve given him good information in the past so we can get through it in the future.”

After the unveiling, attendees and community members were invited to tour the Encircle House in St. George. As one of three locations in Utah operated by the nonprofit organization, the local center offers resources to support LGBTQ+ youth and inform their families and connect them with like-minded peers.

Encircle, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ youth, contributed to the new mural and invited members of the public to tour their youth center following the unveiling, St. George, Utah, Nov. 20, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Parents Empowered, St. George News

Jill Mortensen, local parent and advocate for LGBTQ youth, shared her own family’s experience and offered her perspective on how to show love and support.

“When we say that someone comes out, they’re actually inviting you in,” Mortensen said. “When your child does come to you, they’ve been thinking about this for a really really long time. If they feel safe enough to trust you and come to you and share that, consider that a huge honor that they’ve allowed you in. Accept the invitation and embrace your child.”

More information about the public-private initiative to support local children and youth is available at the Go Together Utah website.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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