No More Suicides!
The American Association of Suicidology offers these thoughts to help a suicidal person with their perspective:
Suicidal thinking is usually associated with problems that can be treated. If you are unable to think of solutions other than suicide, it is not that solutions don’t exist, only that you are currently unable to see them. Suicidal crises are almost always temporary.
Problems are seldom as great as they appear at first glance.
Reasons for living can help sustain a person in pain.
The American Association of Suicidology is an excellent source of information, including a number of English and Spanish PDF fact sheets. See their “Stats and Tools” links. You’ll also find a list of Suicide Myths and Facts at Healthy Place.
Clusters and Copycats
Media coverage alerts us to heinous acts and their tragic consequences, but news reports can also provoke copycat suicides and clusters of similar tragedies. The recent news of gay suicides could prompt other despondent youth to take their lives. Responsible media coverage of such tragedies should avoid reporting suicide method details, or romanticizing any aspect of the story, and should always include warning signs of suicide and the phone numbers of local and national crisis lines.
Suicide clusters are an odd phenomenon, noted as far back as 1910. In an article called Preventing Cluster Suicides, Scott Poland, Prevention Division director for the American Association of Suicidology, says that
According to Poland’s article, “circles of vulnerability” (those at most risk for cluster suicide behavior) include those who may have been mean to or bullied the suicide victim, or who may have even encouraged the suicide; other kids who may have been in a suicide pact but chickened out; friends who missed the warning signs of suicide and now wish they’d taken action; kids who have been or are currently suicidal; and those with mental health issues. School administrators are increasingly involved in trying to identify susceptible students and prevent more deaths.
I suppose that copycat suicides, which take place outside of the geographic clusters, may possibly result from feelings of emotional proximity to the initial event. I don’t know if copycat suicides correlate with youth identified as having an “elevated risk of suicidal thought” but it’s a possibility. In addition to LGBT youth, this list includes kids with perfectionist personalities, learning disabilities, low self-esteem and depression, and a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse. This list also includes kids who have been in serious trouble, who have been abused or neglected, and kids who are loners.
Systems Change, Social Change
If it takes a village to raise a child, it seems it also takes a village to prevent that child from taking hir life. We need to raise consciousness of LGBTQ suicides among existing suicide prevention providers as well as support existing programs and create additional specific vehicles for counseling and support for queer youth. We all need to get involved in these organizations ourselves, through donations of time, money and/or energy. Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project on YouTube is a brilliant and creative response to crisis that conveys an immediate message of hope to queer, suicidal youth.