It is happening right here, in my hometown of Chicago! The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is sponsoring an overnight walk June 27-28 to raise awareness about suicide. The symbolism involved in walking all night seems very powerful and moving to me. Many people I work with have struggled with thoughts of suicide: those with depression, trauma survivors, those who grew up stigmatized because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
“The Out of the Darkness Overnight brings together people with depression and other mental disorders, survivors of suicide loss, mental health professionals and advocates walking side-by-side, arm-in-arm, hand-in-hand, all walking through the night to prevent loss of life from suicide. Net proceeds will benefit AFSP, to fund research, education, survivor and awareness programs — both to prevent suicide and to assist those impacted by suicide.'” -AFSP
Suicide impacts many. I have written elsewhere about how LGBT communities and youth are impacted. In fact, suicide is a serious issue in the LGBT communities. It is important to understand that living as a stigmatized group is traumatizing. Add to that the lack of support from family, school, churches and you can understand why this population is so at risk.
Homophobia and transphobia can have deadly consequences. Very recently in the United States there have been several highly publicized examples of youth suicide spurred on by anti-gay harassment and bullying. The AFSP further describes the link between anti-gay bullying or harassment and suicidal feelings and attempts. “Multiple studies in the United States and abroad have shown that lesbian, gay and bisexual adolescents attempt suicide at a rate three to six times that of comparably aged heterosexual youth. There is also increasing evidence that much of the self-harm behavior reported among gay youth is related to anti-gay stigma expressed through bullying, harassment and violence. Further, studies show that children and adolescents whose appearance and personality traits do not conform to prescribed gender roles are often the target of anti-gay stigma, regardless of whether they consider themselves to be gay or lesbian. Such harassment can lead to feelings of isolation and despair, which in turn can also contribute to suicidal behavior.” – AFSP
In my work with trauma survivors I am all too familiar with what can drive a person to believe that this is a viable option, or the only way to finally escape the pain. As a therapist, I hold onto hope when others cannot. I firmly believe that there are always other solutions; help in finding them is available.
What can you do to help prevent suicide? Talk about it! It is a dangerous myth that talking about it makes it worse. If someone you love expresses suicidal thoughts, ask them about it. If they are actively suicidal in that moment, do not leave them alone. If you need immediate help contact a local or national suicide hotline 1-800-SUICIDE
International help is available at Befrienders.org.