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

Dear Gaby

Local Telemundo host Gabriela Natale opens eyes by shining a spotlight to the gay Latino community

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer  lopez@dallasvoice.com

Gabriela Natale
MADE FOR TV | Natale sees the Latino community in a state of transformation, opening up to LGBT issues. She hopes ‘SuperLatina’ is contributing to that change.

Gabriela Natale (Gaby for short) has a voice beyond her 32 years. She talks spiritedly and quickly with youthful enthusiasm, but there’s wisdom in her tone. Natale talks like she knows something others don’t.

“I hope to create understanding bridges because we as human beings have so much more in common with each other,” she says.

Natale hosts SuperLatina, a Spanish-language talk show on Telemundo that airs Wednesday mornings. SuperLatina heralds a new type of voice in the Latino community; Natale cites Ellen as an influence, but Tyra Banks has been a specific inspiration for her.

“I’m inspired by Oprah and Ellen but I love how Tyra will touch on delicate topics in African-American culture that aren’t talked about out loud,” she says.” “We have those same problems in the Hispanic community.”

With her show, Natale has also burst open the door of LGBT topics within the Latino community — a decision that has led to discomfort among some. With a culture mostly steeped in Catholic tradition, Latinos can be uneasy talking about gay issues, and Natale says Spanish language television reflects that —there is relatively little coverage of LGBT topics. But when SuperLatina had a show on Latino gay youth, Natale met with a surprising response.

“When I heard about the suicide rate for gay teens, I wanted to talk about how they felt,” she says. “It’s hard to be a minority within a minority. I got messages on Facebook, people had seen the show on YouTube and I got so many thank yous. The audience was very positive about it. This was probably some people’s first exposure to the LGBT community.”

Natale doesn’t approach such topics with ulterior motives. SuperLatina isn’t about controversy — she’s committed to making the show a positive tool. Every episode, however, doesn’t have a heavy inspirational message: Some are heartwarming stories of giving youth an educational scholarship or granting someone’s wish to meet a star … and of course, what would a talk show be without makeovers?

But she does put in the effort to make her LGBT-related episodes mean something to both the audience and the community.

“I don’t want circus topics,” she says. “When I reached out to people for my same-sex parents episode, I took more time on that and wanted to establish trust with them. I don’t want anyone to be on my show in fear or as if they are in the hot seat. I don’t want them to be awkward.”

In that episode, she discussed parenting with both male and female couples as well as a specialist on how to approach the subject with children. She says that these families were happy to share this episode with their families, but she also knows that the mindset in the Latino community will be accepted slowly. However, she’s found that Latino families are more accepting than most might think.

“It comes from the heart but I think that people choose to know reality,” she says.

Originally from Argentina, where she graduated with a degree in journalism, Natale moved to Washington, D.C., in 2003 after working for free at a political marketing conference. Following a stint as a news anchor at Univision, she moved on to Telemundo to develop SuperLatina.
But North Texans audiences didn’t get to know Natale until last August, when production on her show moved to the Fort Worth office and it began to air locally.

The Emmy nominee didn’t have a particular go-to person for her interest in the gay community — no gay friend who suffered discrimination that sparked her activism. Instead, she felt obliged to reach out after seeing how Latinos are demographically classified.

“I think it’s a contradiction as a minority to turn your back on another minority,” she says. ”I consider myself a voice for my community and I want to be a stronger voice for positive change.”

Natale sees the shift of thinking in the new generations of Latinos — especially when it comes to the gay community. She references two events over the last year that were crucial to opening minds and embracing the community and both involved music superstars.

“First, there was Ricky Martin coming out, “ she says. “Then there was the Mexican singer Paquita la del Barrio statement in March “that she would prefer a child die on the streets rather than be adopted by a gay couple. “

GLAAD immediately called for an apology and la del Barrio has worked to repair her image by giving a concert at a gay club outside Mexico City. (Interestingly, she recanted not just because of GLAAD’s demand but because of outrage in the Mexican community at large.) Add to it Martin’s eloquent coming out letter on his website and the Latino community could be growing into a more accepting culture respecting gay issues.

“I think there is this shift of shame in the culture,” she says. “People are more proud to speak Spanish and embrace their heritage. But also, I humbly feel part of the transformation in the community is awareness, participation and even education. Right now is a special moment.”

SuperLatina airs on Telemundo on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.

TelemundoDallas.com/SuperLatina.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens