Tag Archives: Suicide & Mental Health

Gay-Straight Alliances and LGBTQ Youth Reslience

A new study by the Family Acceptance Project supports what many of us probably already knew: That LGBTQ students who go to schools with gay-straight alliances (GSAs) — even if they never attend — are happier and more successful.  They seem to have lower rates of depression, suicide and substance use.  They also have more success in school and are more likely to go on to higher education.  This seems to fit with the notion that when LGBTQ youth receive even a small amount of regular support or acceptance, they are healthier and happier.  A previous study showed that youth whose parents made even small efforts to be more accepting were had better mental health than those who don’t.

For more information on GSA’s, see the GSA Network.  This fantastic non-profit has information about how to find a GSA near you, and how to start and build one in your school!


National Suicide Prevention Week: “Y C.A.R.E.”?

The Trevor Project's Y CARE Suicide Prevention Tool

September 5th through 11th, 2010 marks the 36th annual National Suicide Prevention Week.

As part of this important week of raising awareness, The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization has launched a new tool in suicide prevention called “YCARE.” It is an easy to remember acronym to help young people use some simple steps to help save a life.  Y CARE will be featured in The Trevor Project’s materials and trainings.

Often, when faced with someone expressing suicidal feelings, people feel confused, scared and worried that if they say the wrong thing, their friend or loved one could become more suicidal.  Y CARE reminds us that the best thing we can do is take someone seriously, listen to them, and help them and help them connect with assistance.  People who are suicidal are often feeling hopeless and abandoned, according to  Jeffrey Fishberger, M.D., on-call clinician for the Trevor Lifeline.  He reminds us that “When ‘You CARE,’ you can reduce some of those feelings of hopelessness and loneliness. The implied question, ‘Y-CARE’ will help people remember that caring is the first step to saving the life of an LGBTQ youth in crisis.” (Quoted from the excellent site GLT News Now)

The Trevor Project offers trainings and information on suicide prevention as well as direct assistance to LGBTQ youth experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings.

Think Before You Speak

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Good role models may help reduce suicide rates this holiday season

So much of the time, articles about LGBTQ youth and suicide seem to imply that it is just inevitable.  Thanks to Sam Jones at Out and About Newspaper for discussing ways to lower this risk amongst our young people: Good role models.

From Out and About Newspaper:

Each year, suicide claims more lives of Tennesseans than homicide, and the GLBT community is at high risk.

Scott Ridgway, executive director of the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, said the key to lowering that risk may lie in providing positive role models and a sense of belonging to people who are rejected for identifying as LGBT or questioning.

As the holiday season approaches, phone calls to suicide hotlines reach their peak.

“Suicide crisis line calls increase in the holiday season, and we see the numbers of suicides increase in the spring,” Ridgway said.

GLBT youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, according to the Massachusetts 2006 Youth Risk Survey. Ridway said that survey represents a nationwide trend.

Another study, done by the 2007 San Francisco State University Chavez Center Institute, shows that GLBT and questioning youth who come from a rejecting family are up to nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.

Read the rest of the article here

Who Goes to Therapy? (And, Should I?) A Guide for LGBTQ Youth

Who Goes to Therapy?  (And, Should I?)
A Guide for LGBTQ Youth

Lots of people.  I can practically guarantee that you know some!

Do you feel ashamed about having feelings you don’t know how to cope with? Do you think that only rich people go to therapy?  Or crazy people?  Or goofy New Age people who want to access their “inner child”? Or people who want to blame everything on their mothers?

Or maybe you think that therapy means laying on a black couch while a silent therapist nods at you?

Freuds Actual Therapy Couch (no, you dont have to lie on it to get good therapy!)

Freud's Actual Therapy Couch (no, you don't have to lie on it to get good therapy!)

Or that you’ll only be asked about sex?

Maybe you think that therapists will think that your sexual or gender orientation is “sick” or wrong or just not get it.

Well, none of this needs to be true!

The media, and maybe even our friends and family portray therapy as something for people who are crazy or “New Agey”.  Often therapists get portrayed as also crazy, or over-serious, and out of touch.  I’m sure all of these people are out there, but most of the time, therapy looks nothing like this.  Nevertheless, these portrayals leave a lot of us feeling worried and even ashamed about seeking therapy.  If you are LGBTQ, it can be even worse – what if your therapist thinks you are sick for being LGBTQ?

Here are the two main reasons I see that people go to therapy.  First, because they are uncomfortable with something in their lives and they want help changing or coping with it.  The other group goes because they are feeling pretty ok about their lives but want to get help and guidance about how to make their relationship, family, or lives function in the best way possible and avoid problems in the future.

This is true for straight and LGBTQ folks.  It really has nothing to do with being “crazy” and everything to do with wanting to shed shame, guilt or unmanageable feelings that get in the way of your work, relationships, education and happiness.

When do LGBTQ people need to seek out LGBTQ-aware therapists?

Always.  An LGBTQ aware therapist is not only affirming and positive about your gender or sexual orientation, but is skilled in understanding the complicated way that gender or sexual orientation can be involved in all of life’s challenges and joys:

Here are some specific examples:

  • A high school student realizes that she wants to come out to her father after years of keeping her sexual orientation a secret.  She wants help sorting out her feelings and make plans to contact him safely.
  • A college student is in a relationship with someone he really likes but he constantly feels worried about losing his partner.  He wants help finding out why he is so anxious.
  • A 25 year old person always identified as a lesbian, but now begins to suspect that she really prefers to identify as a man. She fears losing her lesbian friends and her family and wants guidance as she sorts it out.
  • A 29 year old man has a history of depression and wants someone to check in with who can help him develop more skills to avoid future bouts.
  • A high school senior feels guilty and ashamed for being gay.  His church tells him and his family that it is a sin and he needs support feeling normal and healthy in his new identity, even though he doesn’t want to tell anyone yet.
  • A 27 year old woman who just had her first child wants an hour of time and space to herself to get to talk about her worries, concerns and joys of being a new mom.
  • A young woman just got dumped by someone she really liked.  She feels scared, desperate and can’t stop thinking about her ex-girlfriend.
  • A high school junior still feels freaked out a month after being called “faggot” by some guys in a truck and wants to figure out how to feel better.
  • A college student is having trouble giving oral presentations and sought therapy to help her be more confident.

But only some of these things are about sexual or gender orientation!

It looks like that, doesn’t it?  Think about how being LGBTQ might impact a young mother who wants to get support from other moms but fears coming out to them.

Or, a student who wants to give an oral presentation but is afraid that she’ll be looked at differently because of her gender presentation.

Or the man who has depression – is part of why he is depressed because after a lifetime of being told that being bisexual is “not normal”, he believes it and has learned to hate himself?

All of these LGBTQ people need someone who can see clearly that discrimination in our culture can cause lots of challenging feelings like anxiety, sadness, fear and worry –even in situations that don’t immediately appear to be related to sexual or gender orientation.

They also need a therapist who is able to sort out what is depression or anxiety that is caused mainly by oppression, and which might also be caused by other factors so that each issue can get the attention it needs.

Lastly, each person needs to be able to speak freely knowing that they are safe to be totally who they are, they are safe to talk about their partners, their friends, their sex lives and themselves without fear of judgment.  And, they need to know that they can talk safely about things they’ve never spoken about with anyone else.

This is why an LGBTQ-aware therapist is really important for LGBTQ identified people.

Is it for me?

Therapy is for anyone who is experiencing feelings that they’re not sure what to do with, how to understand or how to cope with.  It’s for everyone who is entering something new and isn’t sure how to take the next steps.  It’s for anyone who feels confused, overwhelmed or just unclear about what is happening in their lives. If you’re feeling any of these things, you might consider checking out a therapist or even a support group.

Remember, you’re not crazy!

— Jayme L. Peta, MA https://queeryouthmentalhealth.wordpress.com & www.qyip.org.

24-hour help for gay youth – CNN.com

24-hour help for gay youth – CNN.com.

CNN reports on The Trevor Project — a hotline for LGBTQ youth who are feeling suicidal.  Open 24 hours a day, this hotline fields thousands of calls a year.

Again and again we see that there is nothing inherent in any particular sexual orientation that causes mental health concerns such as suicidality.  Youth become fearful, self-loathing, anxious and suicidal in response to the oppression in our culture:

“There’s a high level of stress that youth face in the transition from youth to adulthood,” Charles Robbins, executive director of The Trevor Project, said. “Add on top of that the challenges of sexual orientation or gender identity and we get 15,000 calls a year….”Because of the unfortunate stigma that still exists in the United States around homosexuality … youth tend to hold back their feelings, don’t disclose, live in denial or shame,” Robbins said.”

The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project

And again and again we see that simple, accepting human compassion and contact can make all the difference for youth on the edge.  As a hotline listener for LGBTQ youth for many years, I have repeatedly experienced the power of that simple connection.  Youth who called anxious and depressed about an offhanded homophobic comment at the dinner table, or reading something from a conservative religion condeming homosexuality got off the phone feeling less alone and more hopeful about the possibility of their lives being happy and healthy.  I remember one caller begging me to “say that again” after I told him I had no doubt that LGBTQ people can live joyful lives and that I knew it from looking around at the other volunteers in the room with me.

Was there a moment when you realized you were not alone?  Your comments are invited.

Parents’ response key to health of gay youth

Parents’ response key to health of gay youth

Kids with parents who reacted negatively 8 times more likely to try suicide

Some anti-gay individuals or websites have suggested the idea that just being non-heterosexual is what damages overall mental health for LGBTQ youth.  However, research is showing more and more that acceptance, support and even small efforts on the part of families to respond to the coming out of an LGBTQ child can greatly increase chances for wellness and happiness later on in life.   It always strikes me as odd that we have to “prove” something that makes so much common sense:  being accepted for who we are, and being loved and allowed to be ourselves increases resilience, wellness and happiness.

A recent study out of San Francisco State University, posted Dec. 29, 2008 on MSNBC is showing the incredible importance of family acceptance:

Among other findings, the study showed that teens who experienced negative feedback were more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide, nearly six times as vulnerable to severe depression and more than three times at risk of drug use.

More significantly, Ryan said, ongoing work at San Francisco State suggests that parents who take even baby steps to respond with composure instead of rejection can dramatically improve a gay youth’s mental health outlook.

One of the most startling findings was that being forbidden to associate with gay peers was as damaging as being physically beaten or verbally abused by their parents in terms of negative feedback, Ryan said.

Read the rest of the story here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28420846/