Knowing the stats, finding help

Despite the perception, suicide rate is usually down during the holidays. But the statistics are still alarming

One of the biggest myths about suicide apparently is that people are more likely to kill themselves during the Christmas holidays. That’s what I had always thought. But now I know I was misinformed about that and much more related to suicide.

It turns out the month of December actually has the lowest number of suicides during the year, and spring and fall months have the highest incidence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is speculated that people who might be suicidal think less about killing themselves during the holidays because increased social activity distracts them from their thoughts.

The federal agency recently released the results of its study of suicidal thoughts and behavior in adults for the years 2008-09. The report, which reveals that someone kills him or herself every 15 minutes in the U.S., provides some interesting statistics about suicidal thought. It is the first report to present such data state by state.

One of the more interesting findings of the study is that suicidal thought and behavior vary widely from state to state. About 2.2 million adults — representing 1 percent of the nation’s adult population — acknowledged making plans in the study year to commit suicide, ranging from 0.01 percent of that number living in Georgia to 2.8 percent in Rhode Island.

David-Webb

David Webb The Rare Reporter

About 1 million adults reported attempting suicide, ranging from 0.01 percent in Delaware and Georgia to 1.5 percent in Rhode Island.

The report’s researchers concluded that adults in the Midwest and West were more likely to think about suicide than those in the Northeast and South. Adults in the Midwest were more likely to make plans to commit suicide than those in the South, but suicide attempts did not vary by the four regions.

The variance among the states’ statistics is peculiar, but suicide statistics in general seem to be perplexing. As in the case of loved ones who are often left wondering why victims killed themselves, researchers must try to make sense of the data the victims’ deaths leave behind.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that four men commit suicide for every woman who kills herself, as was reflected in the 2008 statistics when 28,450 men succeeded in killing themselves compared to 7,585 women.

Yet women reportedly attempt suicide three times as often as men.

By age, suicide is the sixth leading cause of death for children 5-to-14 years old, and it is the third leading cause of death for people 15-to-24 years old. Rates of suicide among adult men rise with advancing age, and men 65 and older are seven times more likely than women to commit suicide.
Women are most likely to commit suicide between the ages of 45 and 54, and then again after age 75.

By ethnic groups and race, the highest rates are seen among Native Americans, Alaskan-Americans and Anglos. The lowest rates are seen among Latinos and African-Americans who commit suicide at rates of less than half of what is seen in the other groups.

People diagnosed with AIDS are 20 times more likely to commit suicide, according to the foundation.

Among LGBT people the reports of suicide attempts are significantly higher in comparison to straight people in similar socio-economic and age groups, according to the report “Talking About Suicide and LGBT Populations.” The report published by the 2011 Movement Advancement Project notes that statistical information about suicides among LGBT people is scarce.

Indeed, most of the statistics about suicidal behavior and suicide seem to create more questions than they facilitate understanding, but researchers have identified certain constants.

People who kill themselves are most likely to use a firearm in the process; their deaths are likely to occur after they have made an average of 11 previous suicide attempts; they might suffer from major depression; they may abuse alcohol and other drugs, and they could be victims of bullying, physical abuse or sexual abuse.

There are preventive measures that can be taken if someone is in crisis and at risk of suicide, and it is a good idea to be prepared for such an event. The strongest indicator of a suicide risk is a previous attempt or ongoing expressions of intense distress and despair. Those people must never be left alone, and they should immediately be afforded mental health treatment.

Psychotherapy has helped people who are at risk of suicide survive, and alcohol and drug abuse treatment can succeed in saving lives that seemed destined for destruction.

And even though it turns out the holidays are not a time when people are most at risk for planning or attempting suicide, the myth has created an opportunity to raise awareness about a preventable tragedy for both the potential victims and their loved ones.

After all, there often are no second chances when it comes to a risk of suicide.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Contact him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com or at http://facebook.com/TheRareReporter.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

WHAT’S BREWING: Brittany Novotny; Mexican gay beer; Ice-Ma-Poca-Geddypse intensifies

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. “My name is Brittany Novotny, and I was born in the wrong body.” Transgender Oklahoma City attorney Brittany Novotny, who challenged bigoted State Rep. Sally Kern last November, has recorded an “It Gets Better” video (above) aimed at trans youth.

2. Finally, a gay beer! But it’s not called Schmitts Gay. A Mexican brewery has released two “Artisan Honey-Ales” targeted specifically to the LGBT community, called “Salamandra” and “Purple Hand,” and the first 500 cases have already sold out. Christ, what are we, a bunch of alcoholics?

3. The latest weather-related disaster to strike North Texas is ROLLING BLACKOUTS that are only supposed to last 15 minutes but may in fact last just long enough for you to FREEZE TO DEATH!!! But don’t even think about trying to leave the house because it’s DANGEROUSLY COLD and there’s ICE EVERYWHERE, so you’re likely to GET KILLED IN AN AWFUL WRECK!!! So just stay inside and watch the news, which will come up with something new to scare the shit out of you and boost their ratings, at least until the power goes out.

—  John Wright

Gay man seeking to re-enlist in Navy says local recruiting office was told to suspend application

John James Coolidge III

The Pentagon has yet to announce that it has directed recruiting commanders to resume enforcement of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

However, a gay man from Plano who attempted to re-enlist in the Navy on Thursday morning said a local recruiting office was notified during his visit to suspend his application.

John James Coolidge III, who was discharged from the Navy under “don’t ask don’t tell” in 2007, said he spent three hours completing the necessary paperwork to re-enlist in the Reserves. However, about 15 minutes before he left the recruiting office, a call came in from a supervisor.

“Everything right now is on hold for my re-enlistment,” Coolidge told Instant Tea early Thursday afternoon. “Everything all depends on the court right now. … I’ll probably call him the first I hear of anything on Monday and figure out where to go from there.”

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court granted a temporary stay of a district judge’s order halting enforcement of DADT. That means the policy is legally enforceable again. But the Defense Department, which on Tuesday said it had notified recruiting commanders not to enforce the policy, hasn’t publicly announced any follow-up guidance.

The stay will remain in effect until sometime after Oct. 25, when the appeals court decides whether to leave it in place pending an appeal of the district judge’s decision declaring the policy unconstitutional. The appeal is expected to take at least several months.

Coolidge said he called the recruiting office before going there Thursday morning to find out whether Wednesday’s stay had changed anything.

“He said: ‘It’s up to you. As of this moment, we haven’t heard anything different, and we’re still going to process you,’” Coolidge said. “I’m glad that I started the process, and I’m hoping that the courts will side with the lawsuit and uphold the injunction and overturn the policy.”

—  John Wright