There are certain moments in everyone’s life that they remember so vividly that it seems to have happened yesterday. But when such memories, strike our emotions so deeply, that they seem to haunt our lives and raise doubt in our beings, we must seek out help in other places than just ourselves. In LGBTQ—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning— youth, coming out can often be the hardest moment of all.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24-years-old, and many more consider, plan or even attempt suicide. Effie Malley, Director of the National Center for the Prevention of Youth Suicide, said that some of the most important steps in preventing suicide and crisis in others is to take any talk of suicide seriously, know the warning signs and not be afraid to talk about it. Malley added that for LGBT youths, “usually coming out is not an overnight thing, and it happens differently for everyone,” but that it often occurs in late teen years and in college years
While data is limited on attempted suicide, and particularly limited on risk studies among LGBTQ youth, the Department of Health’s Suicide Prevention Resource Center said in a press release that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth (studies did not include transgendered youth), experience more suicidal behavior, with a one and a half to three times greater likelihood of “suicidal ideation” than non-LGB youth. The GLSEN National School Climate Survey in 2009 also reported that nine out of 10 LGBT students (86.2 percent) experienced harassment at school.
Given the stigmas often associated with being of the gay community, some have difficulty in gaining acceptance from family, friends or even accepting oneself.
There are many questions and doubts that can arise, and when in crisis, where can LGBTQ students turn?
First and foremost, if that student has the support from family and friends, these individuals can help in talking out issues, and in being alert to the potential warning signs. Some of these signs include observable depression, unexpected anger, planning, and suddenly developed impulsiveness and risk-taking. When we see these signs in someone close to us, this is the moment to act, and talk. In fact, 50 to 75 percent of all suicidal people give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Malley also stated, “research has shown that talking about suicide does not cause suicide.” Whether it is talking with a friend, confiding in a new ally found through a resource center or group, or picking up the phone and calling a helpline, there is support for LGBTQ students, and for any student, in need.
Most likely, there is an existing LGBT group or resources center at your university, and if there is not, start one! An important role in working to prevent suicide in LGBT youth is to become involved, and to see how the current center is run, said Malley. “It needs to be something visible where students can go.”
*This is a free, 24/7 service which provides support, information and access to local resources for suicidal people or those around them.
*The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. It was founded by writer James Lecesne, director/producer Peggy Rajski and producer Randy Stone, creators of the 1994 Academy Award®-winning short film, Trevor, a comedy/drama about a gay 13-year-old boy who, when rejected by friends because of his sexuality, makes an attempt to take his life.
This story is part of our week-long series about sexual health and awareness.
*Information taken from organizations’ websites