Suicide Prevention in the LGBTQ+ Community
Each year in the United States over two and a half million youth, ages 12 to 24, experience being homeless. At least 40% of this group consists of LGBTQ youth.
The LGBTQ community is diverse and strong, but has a disproportionately higher rate of suicidal feelings due to the discrimination and prejudice they experience and endure daily. LGBTQ+ youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost 3x the rate of heterosexual youth.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. This month reminds us to check up on loved ones, and study the signs of suicide and ways to prevent it.
People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following:
Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide. Conditions like depression and anxiety, especially when untreated, may increase risk for suicide.
Family dynamic is a main reason why the LGBTQ+ community is a main focus this September. Most of the time, coming out to family is a monumental moment for anybody part of the LGBTQ+ community, and often times can be very traumatic. LGBTQAI youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGBTQAI peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. The children that grow up to be adults reflect back and later feel that this instability leads to other issues as they grow older.
As someone witnessing suicidal signs,
It’s important to be an active part of your LGBTQ+ loved ones’ support systems and check in with them often. If they show any warning signs for suicide, be direct. Tell them it’s OK to talk about suicidal feelings. Practice active listening techniques and let them talk without judgment.
Most of the time support comes from friends that are within the LGBTQ+ community or trusted allies; both over time become their chosen family. For transgender children and youth, family and community support makes all the difference. A recent study found that transgender children whose families affirmed their gender identity were as psychologically healthy as their non- transgender peers (Olson 2016).
Mental health services, much like East Coast Mental Wellness, are working hard to provide adequate mental health services to the LGBTQ community. “As mental health professionals, we aim to look at bringing the LGBTQ community in. So we want to look at planning services with the community, not necessarily for the community.” Ashby Dodge, LCSW calls this “culturally competent care.” Awareness of the LGBTQ history is a big part in providing adequate services.
We want to look at using a strengths-based approach. A supportive teacher. A family member that is really accepting. Maybe the school has a gay-straight alliance that the student can become a part of. These are great things to look at and to really recognize, because it shows folks that they have these things in their life.
So we want to bring them in so that they can advise on trainings, on interventions, on workshops, so that we’re doing this together, and we can effectively reach the most amount of people. If you think you’re doing the best you can, I would challenge you to be better. Learn the terminology. Understand the LGBTQ community. Understand that one young person who thinks that no one is there for them. You can be that person that’s there for them. You can be that person that understands and doesn’t judge them and doesn’t make assumptions, and says, I see you and I hear you just the way you are.
-Ashby Dodge, LCSW
Don’t be afraid to get your loved one the help they might need. The Lifeline is always here to talk or chat, both for crisis intervention and to support allies.
If you’ve ever experienced signs of suicide, contact us at ECMW. For emergencies call 911, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255, The Trans Life Hotline 1-877-565-8860, or The Trevor LifeLine 1-866-488-7386.