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GAY & SUICIDAL Sexual and Gender Minorities and Suicide

TRANS GENDERED lesbian

Gay bisexual

QUESTIONING Resource Toolkit


STATISTICS 1 person in 10

Approximately is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (Elementary School Teachers of Ontario). • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are at a higher risk of attempting suicide (28% vs. 4% of heterosexual youth) • 1 in 4 LGBTQ students is physically harassed about their sexual orientation (Egale Canada)

1.5 to 3 times more likely to have reported suicidal ideation than non-LGBTQ youth

• LGBTQ youth are nearly

(Suicide Prevention Resource Centre [SPRC])

• LGBTQ youth are 1.5 to 7 times more likely than nonLGBTQ youth to have reported attempting suicide (SPRC).

Because sexual orientation is not usually included in a cause of death report or on a death certificate there is a little data connecting sexual and gender minorities and suicide. Research has established that the most reliable indicators of suicide risk are suicidal ideation and prior suicide attempts (SPRC). More studies are needed to establish whether there is a direct link to suicide. Centre for Suicide Prevention, Copyright 2012 ©


To date, there is little research on gender identity and suicide. What research there is determines, as in LGB populations, a predisposition among the transgendered for depression, anxiety and substance abuse (Haas, 27). There is evidence that suggests that youth who are LGBTQ are more susceptible to suicidal thoughts and actions than LGBTQ men and women who are older. This is probably due to adults being more accepting of who they are and developing a greater amount of protective factors and support networks. This is probably most notably voiced in the “It Gets Better” campaign www.itgetsbetter.org/, which urges teens to stick it out as things will improve as they get older. (This is of course cold comfort for many youths stuck in the never-ending present. And it does not take into account many adults who continue to struggle with their sexuality long into their adulthood.)

DEFINITIONS Sexual and Gender Minorities—generally refer to those who have a different sexual orientation than the majority, as well as those who are in conflict with their biological gender at birth and the gender they feel themselves to be—gender identity. Sexual orientation—having three dimensions: sexual selfidentification, sexual behaviour and sexual attraction, most often manifesting itself through self-identification as gay/lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual. Gender identity—refers to a person’s internal sense of being masculine, feminine or androgynous. Transgender is an umbrella term that is broadly used to describe people with gender identities, expressions which differ from their biological sex at birth (Haas). Centre for Suicide Prevention, Copyright 2012 ©


RISK FACTORS • Demographic factors: adolescents and young adults—higher in gay/bisexual young men.

• Mental disorders: depression,

generalized anxiety disorder, conduct disorder and alcohol/ substance use disorders.

• Stigma: the dual stigma of being both different

sexually as well as suffering suicidal thoughts and actions

• Discrimination and prejudice: personal

rejection, hostility, bullying (including cyberbullying), harassment and physical violence. A huge stressor is lack of support from parents and other family members.

• Institutional prejudice: laws and public policies that create inequalities and or fail to provide protection for sexual-orientation or gender-identity based discrimination.

• Access to firearms and other lethal means (Haas, SPRC).

Some groups of LGBTQ youth are at particular risk: those who are homeless or runaways, living in foster care, and/or involved in the juvenile justice system (SPRC). Centre for Suicide Prevention, Copyright 2012 ©


PROTECTIVE FACTORS Resiliency and protective attributes:

• access to effective care • community and school support • strong relationships with family and friends

• restricted access to lethal means of suicide • independence of thought • sense of humour in face of adversity (Dorais, 85)

Centre for Suicide Prevention, Copyright 2012 ©


HEALTH PRACTITIONERS Those on the front lines of health care need to be more involved in identifying those who might be at risk of suicide in the LGBTQ community and to educate themselves at the same time. Kitts says it is a topic that clinicians rarely discuss. In addition to the tell-tale signs of depression physicians should look for stressors such as: gender non-conformity, early awareness of being gay, victimization, lack of familial and social support, school dropout, family problems, acquaintances who have had suicide attempts, homelessness, substance abuse, and other psychiatric disorders (Kitts, 624).

Gender non-conformity suicide attempts

lack of support

victimization

substance abuse

psychiatric disorders homelessness

early awareness Centre for Suicide Prevention, Copyright 2012 Š


EGALE STUDY Egale Study—a study conducted by Egale Canada in 2011 recognized the urgency for schools to get more involved in ending LGBTQ harassment and discrimination. Some of the findings include: • LGBTQ students were more likely than non-LGBTQ individuals to report that staff never intervened when homophobic comments were made. • Six out of ten LGBTQ students reported being verbally harassed about their sexual orientation. The survey also shows, however, that the situation is much improved where schools and school divisions have developed: • Safe- schools policies and procedures explicitly addressing homophobia and made them known to students. In such schools, LGBTQ students are less likely to hear homophobic comments or to be targeted by verbal or physical harassment, they are more likely to report it to staff and parents when they are, and staff is more likely to intervene. They feel safer, more accepted, and more attached to their school. • Policies which are supported from the division-level down to the individual school, so staff and students realize the policies have institutional endorsement. • Support for the efforts of students to start Gay-Straight Alliance clubs (GSAs). This would help encourage solidarity amongst a larger group of the student population (Egale).

Centre for Suicide Prevention, Copyright 2012 ©


REFERENCES Dorais, M.(2004).Dead boys can’t dance. Montreal-Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press. Egale Canada.(2011). Every Class in Every School: The first national climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools (Final Report - May 2011)Retrieved from http://archive.egale.ca/index.asp?lang=E&menu=4&item=1489 Grace, A. and Wells,K.(2005). The Marc Hall prom predicament: Queer individual rights v. institutional church rights in Canadian public education. Canadian Journal of Education 28(3), 237–270. Haas, A., et al.(2011). Suicide and suicide risk in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations: Review and recommendations. Journal of Homosexuality, 58(1),10-51. Kitts, R.(2005).Gay adolescents and suicide: Understanding the association. Adolescence, 40(159),621-628. princesshsn.(n.d.) A year has past(sic)…. Message posted to http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/jamie+hubley_ Seba, J.(2011).Gays and mental health: Fighting depression, saying no to suicide. Brookmall, Pa.: Mason Crest Publishers Suicide Prevention Resource Center. (2008). Suicide risk and prevention in gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. Newton, MA: Education Development Center, Inc. Elementary School Teachers of Ontario.(2003). Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism. Retrieved from http://www.tdsb. on.ca/_site/viewitem.asp?siteid=15&menuid=5401&pageid=4717

Centre for Suicide Prevention, Copyright 2012 ©


“Don’t you see... I’m fighting for... my whole life and the lives of other gay people. I’m fighting for what so many people don’t understand. I’m trying to speed up the process of equality because I am sick of being treated like someone absent of feeling and emotion.” (Grace and Wells, 2005, p.246)

Centre for Suicide Prevention, Copyright 2012 ©


ldn’t tell u o c u yo e m i t that I h s s i i h w ll t r life. I a r ot to go. n e u t u o f y o a dy at beg h n d t e n e a so much! o u t o u y “I can’t believ g o s y n s nti o stop ay. I mi a w m e about you e t e tod r e h nt hm co u l d have bee ere wit eh r e w I wish you

roud of me. p r u o ope y miss you. h I ” nd ove and a n Il ave e h rom f e m h Ple a s e watc n.d.) (princesshsn, Centre for Suicide Prevention, Copyright 2012 ©


RELATED LINKS & RESOURCES The Trevor Project is an organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay,bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/ Camp Fyrefly is a Canadian leadership retreat for sexual and gender minority youth: http://www.fyrefly.ualberta.ca/ Egale Canada is Canada’s LGBTQ human rights organization: advancing equality, diversity, education, and justice: http://archive.egale.ca/ It Gets Better is a project created by Dan Savage to inspire hope for young people who are lesbian, gay bisexual or transgender facing harassment: http://www.itgetsbetter.org/ The Youth Project is a premier resource for LGBTQ youth and the general public in learning about sexuality and gender issues: http://www.youthproject.ns.ca/

Centre for Suicide Prevention, Copyright 2012 Š


WWW.SUICIDEINFO.CA Resource Toolkit produced by the Centre for Suicide Prevention Copyright 2012 Released November 2012 Centre for Suicide Prevention Suite 320, 105 12 Avenue SE Calgary, Alberta T2G 1A1 Phone (403) 245-3900 Fax (403) 245-0299 Email csp@suicideinfo.ca

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