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Thom Harrigan: It Gets Better

The Simmons College community has joined together to send messages of hope, encouragement, and perseverance for LBGTQ youth through the It Gets Better Project™. Started in 2010 by author Dan Savage, the It Gets Better Project™ seeks to inspire hope for youth facing harassment by sending positive messages. A key player in the success of the Project at Simmons is Thom Harrigan, M.S.W, who is currently an Associate Professor of Practice, the Assistant Director of Field Education, and the Coordinator of the Advanced Standing Program for the Simmons School of Social Work. Through his involvement in the LGBTQ community, and clinical practice expertise with young adult suicide, Harrigan knew that, "tying into the larger anti-bullying internet movement of "It Gets Better" was a natural progression for me. As a clinician and educator in an educational environment I saw this as an opportunity to join a larger social movement and promote immediate community change at the same time."

Not only has the It Gets Better Project™ strengthened the Simmons College community, it has produced a video for vulnerable youth worldwide to receive an inspirational message. "The more we come together as a community the more likely we are to impact the negative messages that cost us the lives of so many young people each year, the young who succumb to the messages that they don't belong, are maladaptive in some way, or unloved. There are better messages to deliver and this is what the project is about." Harrigan's work with the Project was publicized in April 2012 with the official launch of the Simmons College video. "We hope the stories and the individuals in them will inspire the viewer to different and healthier personal choices, providing real and immediate resources and alternatives to oppressive messages about one's worth as well as potential for the future."

But the video is not the end of the It Gets Better Project™ at Simmons. "Following the official launch in April of the Simmons video contribution there were many ideas suggested and groups here on campus expressing interest in working on safety and community issues, curriculum development, safe space initiatives...and more." Harrigan also encourages SSW students to get involved with the Project in the upcoming academic year. Some simple steps begin with familiarizing oneself about the movement through the Internet, following campus news and announcements, and buying a shirt from the Simmons website, with all proceeds benefiting the worldwide It Gets Better Project™. "There will be a number of ways to get involved, from recording and uploading a personal video to meeting others and developing new ideas through community gatherings and presentations (beginning at orientation) to linking with the larger international movement and the groups it is partnering with."

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