Suicide is a tragic event, one that leaves not just its mark on the immediate circle of the victim, but one that scars an entire community. While distinct and quantifiable evidence is sparse, numerous studies indicate that rates of suicide attempts and completions are substantially (up to four times) higher among LGBT youth and adults in America.
While we’ve recently seen an increase in the mental-health and support resources available to those contemplating suicide, we’ve also seen a significant and staggering increase in the number of suicides in our community. Preliminary data obtained from the Utah Department of Health reveals that total suicides increased by over 10 percent from 2010 to 2013, with youth suicide increasing by over 30 percent.
For the period of Jan. 1 through June 30, 2010, there were 254 suicides, 34 of which were youth, ages 21 and under. That same six months in 2013, there were 281 suicides, 44 of which were youth.
The reasons for suicide are as myriad and varied as the people who choose to end their lives. Attempting to boil those reasons down to a few causes or to provide a simple explanation, in my opinion, fails to give the crisis we face the attention and thought it requires. One thing, however, is shockingly clear: we aren’t doing enough. As individuals, as a community, as a society, we aren’t doing enough to help these people.
The plague of suicide is complex and there is, as with determining cause, no simple solution.
One thing we can do, however, is to continue to increase awareness both of the crisis we face and the various resources available to those who struggle. Another thing we can do as individuals is to show the people in our community that they are not alone. We can embrace diverse people, help them by showing them that they live in a community full of people who not only accept them for who they are, but who value them as individuals. The third, and probably most important, thing we can do is to engage.
We live in a dichotomous world, a world in which we’re more connected than ever before to news and information. But we’re also more disconnected than ever before. We find it easier to sit behind a computer screen and type than we do to sit face-to-face and really connect with our friends and peers. This form of interaction makes it increasingly difficult to notice changes in our friends’ attitudes and demeanor. We need to be aware of the feelings of our friends and colleagues, be aware of warning signs and prepared to intervene when necessary. More often than not, that requires real personal interaction.
Let’s face reality, folks, our society isn’t the most accepting place. We live in a culture of intolerance where deviation from societal norms may be “tolerated” but it is not accepted nor encouraged. Our community, this community, can be much better than that. In the short time that I’ve been involved with this community I’ve found support, respect and love that I can’t begin to quantify. The amount of kindness, acceptance and support that exists among this community is astounding; and we can do so much with it.
As this community grows and we continue to reach out, we can show all people, not just LGBT or LGBT youth, that there is a community here that values them, that sees and loves who they are, and that they are welcome to be a part of that community. As we expand our embrace, we begin to reverse this horrible trend that is truly a plague upon our society.