For several years now, Britney Spears' public struggle with social anxiety has helped change the way Americans think about mental illness. And her continued commitment to mental health and LGBT equality was put in the spotlight this week in a poignant meeting between the pop diva and a teen who says she saved his life.
David LeCours, a Massachusetts teen, shared his heartbreaking story with Spears in a letter handed over during a meet and greet after her Aug. 21 show in Las Vegas. Moments after LeCours and Spears parted ways, one of her bodyguards chased after the young man to ask for an address where Spears could send a response.
"The letter explained how she helped me get through a real tough period in my life these past couple of months, and how I wanted to end it all but she made me be strong," LeCours said in an Instagram post. "Thank you for everything Britney. I wouldn't be able to be so confident and open about my sexuality if your music and you didn't help me."
Taking LeCours' words to heart, apparently, the multiplatinum artist did indeed write him back within a few days. Spears' short letter was a message of support he won't forget.
"I was very happy to hear how courageous you've been about being openly gay," Spears wrote, according to a follow-up photo posted to LeCours' Instagram. "I've always been told as long as you know in your heart, that's what matters most ... I hope you keep smiling."
Although the adversity the LGBT youth community faces now is discussed less than it was a few years ago — when a string of LGBT youth suicides related to homophobic bullying made national headlines — queer young people continue to struggle across America.
Just last week, 19-year-old Daniel Pierce from Kennesaw, Ga., was violently attacked and disowned by his father during a family intervention staged to "pray away the gay." Fearing the worst about the anticipated ordeal, Pierce set up a video camera to record the confrontation and asked his supportive aunt beforehand to keep her phone close in case he needed help.
The haunting and heartbreaking video — a case study in how not to react to a family member coming out — went viral. Tossed out of his home and separated from his family, Pierce risked becoming like so many other LGBT teens and young adults who find themselves homeless due to unsupportive family members. Luckily, this story has a happy ending — Pierce's boyfriend set up a crowdfunding campaign that has so far amassed nearly $100,000 — but not everyone is so lucky.
Image Credit: Daniel Pierce via Go Fund Me
Family and social rejection can lead to mental health issues and depression for LGBT youth, which drives many of them to have suicidal thoughts. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24, according to the Trevor Project, a national organization focusing on suicide prevention for LGBT youth, and various reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And for many of those young people, LeCours included, messages of hope and affirmation — springing from sources as varied as the lyrics of Spears or the celebrity-filled It Gets Better Project — can effectively fuel their resilience as they come of age, often in some of the most unwelcoming environments imaginable.
While certainly not a stand-in for this type of hands-on support, the efforts of gay and straight public figures such as Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, Demi Lovato, Chris Colfer, Lady Gaga and many others don't go unnoticed. Whether or not you like her music, Spears' interaction with this one young fan represents a kindness and compassion the world needs more of right now.
h/t The Advocate