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

Dan Savage to appear at UNT in February 2012

The North Texas Daily posted today that the University of North Texas will bring in Dan Savage as the as the keynote speaker for the 12th Annual Equity and Diversity Conference. The one-day conference is set for Feb. 7 at the campus and will also feature Grammy-winner John Legend. Along with his morning appearance, there will also be a book signing with Savage later that day. From NTDaily.com:

The theme of this year’s event is “The power of peace is the harmony of inclusion,” chosen to address current issues faced by many students, said Uyen Tran, director of organization development for equity and diversity.

“Dan Savage came up a lot when we were deciding who to pick,” Tran said. “He’s really at the forefront of things and how to deal with the problems in society.”

During his speech, Savage will address the bullying epidemic of the past year, as well as his personal clash with cultural conservatives because of his homosexuality, according to the event’s website.

“The Multicultural Center believes no matter what your beliefs are, everyone does need to be treated with dignity,” Tran said. “There have been so many suicides because of a lack of this.”

Savage appeared in Dallas this March at The Kessler but mixed heavier topics of coming out and bullying and his It Gets Better project  with relationship advice made famous from his syndicated column and show Savage Love. For more information on the conference, click here.

—  Rich Lopez

Chronicle blogger blames ‘It Gets Better” project for LGBT teen suicides

Kathleen McKinley

Kathleen McKinley

Kathy McKinley is a self-described “conservative activist” who blogs for the Houston Chronicle under the monicker “TexasSparkle.” In a recent post McKinley took the “It Gets Better” project to task for what she believes is their culpability in the suicides of LGBT teens:

“These kids were sold a bill of goods by people who thought they were being kind. The “It will get better” campaign just didn’t think it through. They didn’t think about the fact that kids are different from adults. They handle things differently. They react differently. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS. You can grumble all day long how unfair it is that straight teens can be straight in high school, and gay kids can’t, but life is unfair. Isn’t the price they are paying too high?? Is it so much to ask them to stand at the door of adulthood before they “come out” publically? Because it may save their life.”

McKinnley’s primary confusion about the “It Gets Better” campaign (other than its name) is the assumption that the goal is to encourage teens to come out of the closet, or encourage them to become sexually active:

“Why in the world would you give teenagers a REASON to tease you? Oh, yes, because the adults tell you to embrace who you are, the only problem? Kids that age are just discovering who they are. They really have no idea yet. The adults tell you to “come out,” when what we should be telling them is that sex is for adults, and there is plenty of time for figuring out that later.”

I would like to encourage Ms. McKinley to watch the “It Gets Better” project’s founder Dan Savages’ video. Please, Ms. McKinley, listen, and tell me if you hear Savage or his partner Terry say anything about teens coming out or having sex. I think what you’ll hear them say is that all of the things that most kids, gay and straight, dream of (falling in love, starting a family, having the support of their parents, co-workers and friends) are possible for LGBT teens. I think you’ll hear them talk about how difficult their teen years were, and about the fears they had that their parents would reject them, that they’d never find success and that they’d always be alone.

Choosing to have sex is one of the most personal decision a person will ever make. For LGBT people, choosing to come out is another. I have not watched all of the thousands of videos from people who have participated in the “It Gets Better” project. It’s possible that there are a few that tell kids to come out right away, or to become sexually active, but I doubt it.

Every video in the project that I have seen has had the same simple message: that the person making it understands how tortuously awful the experience of being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender in Junior and High School can be, but there is a wonderful world of loving, vibrant, successful, engaged LGBT adults out there and if queer teens can just hang on, just for a few years, they can join it. I doubt that any of the contributors to the project think that hanging on for a few years will be easy. I suspect that most of them remember, with excruciating clarity, contemplating ending those temporary years of terror with a permanent solution and that is why they choose to reach out.

I grew up without role models, where people like Barbara Gittings, Bayard Rustin and Harvey Milk didn’t exist . I grew up in a small town where the two men with the pink house were talked about in hushed tones that immediately fell silent when I walked into the room, because it wasn’t appropriate for children’s ears. I grew up in a world where my mother wouldn’t tell me what “gay” meant, where the evening news was turned off if it reported on the AIDS crisis, where I wasn’t given words to describe who I was, and so the only word I could find was “alone.”

I was lucky. My suicide attempt failed.

I was lucky, I survived, and went to college, and found a church that embraced and loved LGBT people. That’s where I met doctors and lawyers and business owners and teachers who were like me. That’s where I met two wonderful women who had built a life together for over 50 years. That’s where I discovered I wasn’t alone and that being gay didn’t mean that i couldn’t have all of those things I’d dreamed of.

That is what McKinley missed in her blog post. In her haste to lay blame on anything other than the overwhelming prejudice perpetuated by schools, churches and governments against LGBT people McKinley missed the fact that kids need role models. In her rush to shove queer teens back into the closet she forgot that human beings need the hope of a better world, lest they give up in despair.

McKinley got one thing right in her post. She titled it “Are Adults Also To Blame For Gay Teen Suicides? Yes.” Adults are to blame for LGBT teen suicides. When adults hide the stunning diversity of God’s creation from their children they create a vision of reality that some of those children can’t see themselves in. When adults tell LGBT teens that they should be invisible then it is all too clear who is to blame when those teens believe them, and take steps to make themselves invisible permanently.

To all the LGBT kids out there: it does get better. There are adults who care about you and want all the wonderful things you dream of to come true, but you have to hang on. If you need to keep who are secret to remain safe then do so. If you need someone to talk to please call the Trevor Project at 866-4-U-Trevor (866-488-7386).

—  admin

Cubs to make ‘It Gets Better’ video

Associated Press

CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs have agreed to make a video for an anti-suicide campaign geared toward gay youth.

The Cubs announced Friday that they’ll make a video for the “It Gets Better” campaign when they return from their current 10-game road trip.

The Cubs are the second professional sports team to participate in the campaign. The San Francisco Giants released a video this week.

Seattle writer Dan Savage launched the “It Gets Better” project last year amid several highly publicized suicides by gay teenagers. It provides messages of hope to counter the despair of bullied or rejected teens.

Cubs owner Laura Ricketts is urging other professional sports organizations to make their own videos.

Ricketts and “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks headlined the team’s float at last year’s Chicago Gay Pride Parade.

—  John Wright

Equality Texas action alert on anti-bullying bill

Equality Texas has issued an action alert calling on people to contact their representatives and urge them to vote in favor of HB 1942, an anti-bullying bill by State Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington. The bill has been placed on the House General State Calendar for Monday. Click here to send an email to your state representative. Here’s the full text of Equality Texas’ alert:

ACTION ALERT

Vote is Monday, May 2nd on Anti-Bullying Bill HB 1942!

Fact: Time is running out on the Texas Legislature to pass meaningful legislation to address the loss of life associated with bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment. Barely over one month remains in the Session and lawmakers are focused on the budget and redistricting.

Fact: According to information compiled by the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University – San Marcos, there have been four bullying-related suicides of Texas students since the 2009 Legislative Session when lawmakers also failed to pass meaningful legislation.

Fact: House Bill 1942 by Rep. Diane Patrick has just been placed on the House General State Calendar for Monday, May 2nd.

Fact: We need thousands of Texans to contact their State Representative now and urge passage of  House Bill 1942 by Rep. Diane Patrick .

We simply cannot allow the clock to run out again without taking meaningful action to protect the lives of Texas children.

Please act now.

Click here to send an email to your State Representative.

—  John Wright

In midst of gay teen suicide crisis, Houston’s Kinkaid School removes Safe Space stickers

Texas Monthly‘s March issue features an interesting piece (already available online to subscribers) about the ideological battle that’s gripped Houston’s prestigious Kinkaid School since a parent — who also happened to be one of the highest-paid bankers on Wall Street — wrote an e-mail that went viral in 2009 complaining that the school had become too liberal.

Texas Monthly‘s John Spong concludes that in the aftermath of the e-mail, conservatives appear to have won the day at George W. Bush’s alma mater: At least three openly gay Kinkaid staffers have resigned their posts, sexual orientation is excluded from a new diversity policy at the school, and GLSEN Safe Space stickers were removed from classrooms and offices:

With gay suicides and bullying in national headlines, that move struck many as beyond tone-deaf. For them, the school’s reasoning—that the stickers implied that one group was more protected than others—showed greater concern for some people’s political views than for the welfare of vulnerable students. The same objection was raised when the board clarified its edict on “student exposure to issues relating to sexual orientation.” Faculty had pointed out that kids trying to understand their sexual identity often reach out to them; a gay Kinkaid alum I talked to credited one such teacher with saving his life. Could that conversation now get a teacher fired? The board stressed that the proper place for these sorts of conversations was at home or in a counselor’s office, adding that teachers were not to initiate those discussions. As one current faculty member put it, “We’re allowed to have those conversations; we’re just not allowed to tell the kids we’re allowed to have those conversations. That’s the thing that’s confusing.”

—  John Wright

Minnesota School District ‘Investigation’ Says Bullying Not Responsible For Suicides

The Anoka-Hennepin School District, Minnesota's largest school district, has seen six students take their lives over the past year and a half. One of them was 15-year-old Justin Aaberg who, according to his friends, took his life after being bullied in school. The school district has recently completed an "investigation" into teenage bullying and concluded that bullying was not responsible for any of the suicides in their district.

JustinSaid Superintendent Dennis Carlson in an official statement: "As we all try to heal from the pain of these deaths, the continuation of inaccurate information is not helpful," Carlson said in his message. "Once again, we have no evidence that bullying played a role in any of our student deaths."

As Minnesota Public Radio points out, "District officials didn't conduct a formal investigation into the student suicides, but to figure out why six students took their own lives, they had a series of conversations among district officials, as well as with parents and others who knew the students."

Justin's mother thinks the school's so-called investigation is a total crock.

According to Minnesota Public Radio, "The district's conclusion doesn't sit well with Tammy Aaberg. Her son Justin, who was gay, killed himself this past summer. She said she can't say for sure that an act of bullying caused Justin to hang himself. 'I don't know what the last thing was to drove him over the edge,' she said. 'I don't have proof of his last day.'"

"But Aaberg said that's less important than the fact that she's knows Justin was bullied and the district, she feels, isn't an inviting place for some students. 'So many kids have come to me on Facebook that aren't even in the district anymore that have dropped out or are in alternative schools — that have been bullied and they didn't do anything,' she said."

"Since her son's death, Aaberg has pushed the district for policies she says would make schools more welcoming for all students. The claim that bullying didn't cause any of the suicides was also disputed this week by a teen who told school board members that his friend, one of the suicide victims, killed herself because she'd been bullied so much. District officials are now looking into that claim."

In 2009, two Anoka-Hennepin School District teachers were ordered to go on leave after harrassing a gay teenager.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Your daily dose of Joel Burns

Ever since his “It Gets Better” speech, it seems not a day (or even an hour) goes by that we don’t hear something new about openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns. Today’s news comes from GayPolitics.com, which reports that Burns is the Victory Fund’s first endorsed candidate for 2011.

His powerful October speech about the suicides of young gay people, delivered in the chambers of the Fort Worth City Council, has been viewed nearly 2.5 million times on YouTube, prompting media outlets from across the country (and the world) to seek interviews to discuss the issue of anti-LGBT bullying.

Councilman Joel Burns has become a hero to LGBT youth who so desperately need role models — people who are successful and respected, but who are also open and honest about being gay.

Now Burns is also the first 2011 candidate to earn the Victory Fund’s endorsement. He’s running for re-election to represent District 9 on the Fort Worth City Council, and the Victory Fund is out to make sure he wins.

“Joel represents what the Victory Fund is all about — making sure LGBT voices are represented in government, and making sure we are heard,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.

—  John Wright

Music Bytes: Erasure re-records ‘Respect’ for charity; Ricky Martin talks to Larry King

Ricky Martin appeared on Larry King Live on Tuesday and knocked it out of the park with his eloquent responses to King’s questions about coming out and what’s to follow. In this clip, he discusses his desire to get married in his country along with raising his two sons with his partner. Longer clips can also be found on YouTube.

He’s also the cover story for the December/January issue of People en Espanol. The story pretty much covers the same territory Larry King did, but fairly well done. Of course, you have to be able to read in Spanish. For more, check that out here.

On Erasure’s website, the band posted the news they will re-record “A Little Respect” with the youth chorus from the Hetrick-Martin Institute which houses the Harvey Milk High School. Proceeds from the download will go toward the institute and the True Colors Fund founded by Cyndi Lauper. Erasure performed on the True Colors tour back in 2007.

According to the site, “in the wake of the tragic gay bullying incidents and related suicides across the country, Andy Bell was motivated to take action. As one of popular music’s first openly-gay celebrities Bell felt compelled to get involved. ‘I am honored and moved beyond words to serve as an Ambassador to the The Hetrick-Martin Institute. Every opportunity we have to spread tolerance and compassion must be seized and I will take special pride in doing so on HMI’s behalf.’”

The single is slated for a mid-December release. In the meantime, here’s the original which we all probably know so well.

—  Rich Lopez

Annise Parker tells youth, ‘It Gets Better’

Annise Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s staff has been encouraging her to do an “It Gets Better” video. She took the opportunity to do so during a presentation at the Houston Holocaust Museum on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

The museum presented her with a Guardian of the Human Spirit Award, a platform for acknowledging dedicated Houstonians who have worked to enhance the lives of others and to better humankind.

On its website, the museum listed among the reasons she was given the award was her expansion of the city’s nondiscrimination policies:

One of her early official acts was to issue one of the most comprehensive non-discrimination orders in the nation. The order prohibits discrimination and/or retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity at every level of municipal government, including hiring, contracting and/or access to city facilities and programs/activities.

Her acceptance speech includes her thoughts on the recent rash of publicized suicides by teens who had been bullied. Her office noted the lighting that makes Parker look radioactive. Prior to her appearance, the content of the speech changed several times and it wasn’t until the last minute that Parker decided to include the “It Gets Better” piece and asked that it be recorded.

—  David Taffet