PREVENTING GSD YOUTH SUICIDE
Suicide among GSD (gender & sexually diverse) youth has always been a large issue within the GSD community. Being a teenager in general can be tough enough without the added pressure of feeling “different.” However, it is often said that suicide is a “long term solution to a short term problem,” and there are many alternatives to suicide. This pamphlet outlines some of the risk factors associated with GSD youth, suicide myths and facts, warning signs, and places to go for help in your community.
Research findings from the last decade or so have shown that GSD youth (ages 15-24) are at an increased risk of committing suicide in comparison to non-GSD youth. Some studies show that gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth comprise 30% of completed suicides while transgender youth have the highest incidence of completed suicides. It is estimated that the attempted suicide for transgender youth is higher than 50%.
Indeed, GSD youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. Lack of understanding, intolerance, and social exclusion can contribute to depression, anxiety, and self-loathing. The fact that GSD teens already show a higher tendency towards mental health issues (such as depression and anxiety) points towards the higher risk of suicidal ideations and behaviours in this demographic.
Suicide Myths and Facts
When discussing a topic such a suicide, it is important to separate myths from facts. Once you can separate fact from myth, you can take a closer look at what it means to be suicidal and who is potentially at risk.
Myth: People who talk about killing themselves rarely commit suicide.
Fact: Most people who commit suicide have given some verbal clues or warning of their intention.
Myth: The tendency toward suicide is inherited and passed from generation to generation.
Fact: Although suicidal behavior does tend to run in families, it does not appear to be transmitted genetically.
Myth: The suicidal person wants to die and feels that there is no turning back.
Fact: Suicidal people are usually ambivalent about dying and will frequently seek help immediately after attempting to harm themselves.
Myth: All suicidal people are deeply depressed.
Fact: Although depression is often closely associated with suicidal feelings, not all people who kill themselves are obviously depressed. In fact some suicidal people appear to be happier than they've been in years because they have decided to "resolve" all of their problems by killing themselves. Also, people who are extremely depressed usually do not have the energy to kill themselves.
Myth: There is no correlation between alcoholism and suicide.
Fact: Alcoholism and suicide often go hand in hand. Alcoholics are prodded to suicidal behavior and even people who don't normally drink will often ingest alcohol shortly before killing themselves. The fact that alcohol is a depressant may contribute to pre-existing feelings of depression and suicidal ideations.
Myth: Suicidal people are mentally ill.
Fact: Although many suicidal people are depressed and/or distraught, this does not necessarily mean that they are clinically ill. However, mental illness can and does have a large impact on the number of suicides that occur and it’s important to recognize and understand this connection.
Myth: Once someone attempts suicide, that person will always entertain thoughts of suicide.
Fact: Most people who are suicidal are only that way for very brief period once in their lives. If the person receives the proper support and assistance, s/he won’t likely experience suicidal thoughts and feelings again. Only about 10 percent of people who attempt suicide later kill themselves.
Myth: If you ask someone about their suicidal intentions, you will only encourage them to kill themselves.
Fact: The opposite is actually true. Asking someone directly about their suicidal intentions will often lower their anxiety level and act as a deterrent to suicidal behavior by encouraging the expression of pent-up emotions through a frank discussion of their problems.
Myth: Suicide is quite common among the lower class.
Fact: Suicide crosses all socio-economic distinctions and no one class is more prone to it than another.
Myth: Suicidal people rarely seek medical attention.
Fact: Research has consistently shown that about 75 percent of suicidal people will visit a physician within the month before they kill themselves.
Watching for and recognizing warning signs can save a life. Remember, asking someone about whether or not they are thinking about killing themselves will not encourage suicidal behavior. Rather, discussing suicide openly can bring a person’s thoughts and feelings into the open and can encourage them to look for alternatives. Listed below are some of the warning signs associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviours:
- Previous suicide attempts
- Verbalizing suicidal thoughts or threats
- Giving away prized personal possessions
- Collecting and discussing information on suicide methods
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and anger at oneself or at the world
- Themes of death or depression evident in conversation, written expressions, reading selections, or artwork
- Statements or suggestions that the speaker would not be missed if s/he were gone
- Scratching or marking the body; other self-destructive/-harming acts
- Recent loss of a friend or a family member (or even a pet) through death or suicide or other losses (loss of a parent resulting from divorce, for example)
- Acute personality changes, unusual withdrawal, aggressiveness, or moodiness, or new involvement in high-risk activities
- Sudden dramatic decline or improvement in academic performance, chronic truancy or tardiness, or running away
- Physical symptoms such as eating disturbances, sleeplessness or excessive sleeping, chronic headaches or stomachaches, menstrual irregularities, apathetic appearance
- Use or increased use of substances
Where to go for help:
Mobile Crisis Line / Suicide Crisis Line (306) 933-6200
Kids Help Phone (National) 1-800-668-6868
Sexual Assault Crisis Centre (306) 244-2294
ACC Peer Support Line 1-800-358-1833
The Avenue Community Centre (306) 665-1224
Mobile Crisis Services 306-757-0127 and 306-525-5333
Regina Sexual Assault Centre 306-352-0434
Help in Prince Albert
P.A. Mobile Crisis Unit 306-764-1011
Other Saskatchewan Help Lines
La Ronge 24-hour Crisis Line 306-425-4090
Southwest Crisis Services 1-800-567-3334 and 306-778-3692
North East Outreach and Support Services (Melfort)1-800-611-6349
West Central Crisis & Family Support (Kindersley) 306-463-1860
Battlefords and Area Sexual Assault Centre 1-866-567-0055 and 306-446-4444