LGBTI people have the highest rates of suicide when compared to any population.
Studies indicated that 15.7% of lesbian, gay or bisexual and 20% of transsexual individuals report current suicidal thoughts (Rosenstreich, 2011). LGBTI people are more likely to experience discrimination, abuse, violence, social isolation and mental health issues. These issues can also increase their risk of having thoughts about suicide and suicide.
Significantly, many LGBTI people who attempt suicide have not disclosed their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status to other people, or they have only told a few others.
LGBTI people are at higher risk of suicidal ideation (medical term for thoughts about suicide) or suicide but it is highly important to note that this is not due to their sexuality, sex, gender identity but in fact due to the discrimination and exclusion they experience on a daily basis. Research has shown that fear of further discrimination and stigma also results in LGBTI individuals not accessing support services to prevent issues being addressed effectively and early. Within the LGBTI community there is diversity – younger, older, rural/remote geographical location, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) people.
Risk factor’s for LGBTI young people and adults include:
- Discrimination and verbal/physical harassment or violence
- Social isolation
- Increased use of drugs and alcohol
- Higher incidence of mental health issues
- Increased risk of homelessness
- Personal stress
- Hiding sexual or gender identity
- Coming out
- Gender non-conformity
- Good relationships with family
- Seeking help with difficulties arise
- Self confidence
- Sense of humour
- Social skills
- Involvement in sports, clubs or other activities
- Good relationships with peers, teachers and other adults
(things for you to look out for if you are worried someone you know is suicidal)
- Thoughts of suicide (known as suicide ideation)
- Level of distress
- Feeling desperate and alone
- Having a plan (how specific or vague is the plan? Do they have access to the means)?
- How lethal is the proposed method of suicide
- Intent – when do they intend to hurt/kill themselves, are there specific reasons or times?
- Previous attempts
- Previous mental health issues may increase a person’s vulnerability.
Consider the following changes when wondering if someone you know is at risk
- A decrease in their interests
- Typical sleep pattern changes
- Changes their appetite (eating more or less)
- Loss or gaining weight
- Behavioural changes
- Crying more than usual
- Withdrawing, spending significant periods of time alone
- Acting more reckless, taking more risks than usual
- Consuming drugs and/or alcohol
- Changes in performance at school or work
- Putting their affairs in order (saying goodbye, giving away belongings)
- Getting into trouble with the law
Some examples of suicidal thoughts are:
- “I can’t take this anymore” (escape)
- “What’s the point? Things are never going to get any better” (thinking there is no future for them)
- “It’s all my fault, I’m to blame” (guilt based thoughts)
- “I’m on my own … no-one cares about me” (thoughts about being alone and isolated)
- “Nothing I do makes a bit of difference”, “It’s beyond my control” (helpless thoughts)
Desperate, angry, sad, ashamed, lonely, hopeless, in unbearable pain and suffering, worthless, ashamed of who they are/how they feel.
What can you do if you are worried about somebody?
- Recognise the signs (changes in behaviour, thoughts, feelings)
- Ask them about their feelings and thoughts
- Listen (without judgement)
- Be respectful
- Provide a sense of hope
- Avoid making negative comments such as threats
- Don’t try and solve their problems yourself
- Follow up support services – counselling to assist with ongoing care
It is also important to acknowledge there is significant stigma around suicidal thoughts and suicide, and as a caregiver you may find yourself needing support after caring from someone experiencing suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide. Remember, it is okay for you to access psychological support.
This information is a general guide only and should always consult a registered psychologist (or another trained health professional) to assess the level of risk and develop a care plan.
Centre for Human Potential offers confidential counselling with experienced and caring psychologists that can help people to take the first steps towards feeling better and gain a sense of control over their lives.