Suicide is preventable, but awareness and outreach are imperative

Three people associated with mass shootings died of apparent suicides in a little more than a week between March 17-25. Two were survivors of last year’s Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The third was the father of a 6-year-old student killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. 

While it hasn’t been confirmed that all three took their own lives because they couldn’t cope with the aftermath of the tragedies in which they were connected, it is believed to have played a significant role.

Our hearts go out to the Parkland and Newtown communities as they deal with the devastation of these new deaths while still reeling from the huge losses already suffered.

That said, it presents an opportunity for all of us to think about and discuss suicide — especially in our own community.

It has been widely reported that gay, lesbian and bisexual teens are four to five times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual teens.

The transgender suicide rate is as much as nine times higher than that of the overall population, according to a 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality reported by Crisistextline.org.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for LGBTQ individuals ages 10-24.  

Now is the time to heighten awareness in our community. We need to educate ourselves about suicide in general, about who is most at risk among LGBTQ people. We must learn what we can do to reduce those risks. How can we identify those individuals and what should we do when we do?

We need to insist on more training for mental-health professionals and school and community leaders specifically on LGBTQ suicide risk and prevention.

It is the responsibility of our community as a whole to reach out to LGBT young people (or anyone) who may appear to be struggling or depressed or alone. Engage them and talk with them. Ask them how they are, how they are feeling, if they need someone to talk with. 

If you are contemplating suicide, or know or suspect someone else is, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). If you need to talk with another trans-identifying individual, call the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860.

The TrevorLifeline offers 24/7 support for LGBTQ youth in crisis, those feeling suicidal or those in need of a safe, judgment-free place to talk. Call TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386.

Don’t stay silent. Suicide is preventable. Stronger community outreach not only will help, but also will likely save lives.