Let’s Talk About Suicide, by Wash Silk
This blog post is about suicide. It can be a hard topic so if you are not looking for a hard topic at the moment do not read on.
Suicide is not easy to talk about, but it happens everyday, and unfortunately LGBTQ+ young people are at higher risk then their heterosexual or cisgender peers. Did you know that according to egale, LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers? Obviously, four times higher is way too high.
Additionally, the Huffington Post suggests that suicides in Canada might be especially prevalent amongst gay men. More than 75% of completed suicides in Canada are made by men and we know that men access mental health services at a much lower rate than women (only about 37% of clients who access traditional counselling services are men). That’s why we’re so proud that about half of the people who use our Walk In Counselling Clinic each week are men.
As you may already know KW Counselling we provide free counseling to the LBGTQ+ community through the OK2BME program. In one of these counselling sessions, a parent shared that one of the first things they found when researching how to support their transgender child was the extremely high suicide rates for transgender youth.
Why does this happen?
There are many reasons why LGBTQ+ people might experience more suicidal ideation than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. We know that LGBTQ+ people are vulnerable because of homo/bi/transphobia and that they are more frequently rejected by family and friends. The Huffington Post cites studies showing that gay men, specifically, have a higher risk of mental health issues than their straight and cisgender counterparts due to harassment and victimization. These factors strongly affect self-worth and can lead to low self-esteem, loneliness, and isolation. People who are conflicted about their LGBTQ+ identity also have higher rates of mental health issues.
CMHA reports that 77% of transgender people in an Ontario survey had considered suicide and 45% of them had attempted suicide. Research suggests that transgender people are most vulnerable to completing suicide when they are planning or trying to access medical transition but have not started yet. They are the least vulnerable when they are receiving the medical help they need.
What can do we do to change this?
- Be supportive. The Family Acceptance Project demonstrated “the way that parents and caregivers respond to their child’s gender variance is the most significant marker of long-term health and well-being.”
- Affirm the person and their identity. Its okay to be you!!
- Always take someone seriously when they are expressing suicidal feelings.
- Challenge homo/bi/transphobia when you see it in your life to work towards creating a safer and accepting society.
- The Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council (WRSPC) has a listing of risk factors and warning signs for suicidality. You can read these, as well as suggestions for what to do if you suspect someone may be at risk for suicide, on their website: https://wrspc.ca/need-help/risk-factors-warning-signs/ .
What if I feel like this?
- Talk about it.
- Reach out for help. There are programs that can support you, for example, OK2BME or The Skills for Safer Living Program at CMHA WW for people who deal with chronic suicidal thoughts.
- The Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council suggests building a team around yourself if you are having suicidal feelings. You can read about their suggestions here.
- Create a safety plan and share it with someone you love. “When I feel like this, I will…”
Remember you are not alone and there are resources that can help you or a loved one when you feel like this.
OK2BME offers free counselling to LGBTQ+ youth in Waterloo Region. You can fill out our online intake form, call us at 519.884.0000, or visit our Walk In Counselling Clinic on Thursdays from 12-6pm.
You can also connect with the LGBT Youthline through text, chat or phone. Visit their website: http://www.youthline.ca/.
If you have lost someone to suicide, KW Counselling Services is one of the local organizations that partners with WRSPC to provide a suicide bereavement group. The group is currently meeting on Mondays at KW Counselling Services from 6-8pm. Visit the website to sign up or for more details: https://wrspc.ca/coping-with-suicide-loss/support/