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LGBTQ

6 Risk Factors for Suicide

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Recently, three people have died by suicide in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina in less than a year by jumping off the top of a parking garage.  If three people have died just in one small area within Greensboro, how many die annually in North Carolina? The answer is a figure that is historically higher than the rest of the nation which averages of over a thousand suicides per year.

suicide-preventionNews-Record.com reported on the latest suicide committed by a 35 year old local woman on June 18, 2013:

This is the third suicide from an eight-story parking garage in downtown in less than a year. On Aug. 4 one man jumped from the Bellemeade Street parking deck. A second man jumped from the same parking deck on Sept. 1. That parking deck is about a block away from the Marriott parking deck. Read More

When faced with suicides that make the local news or impact a loved one, we often ask ourselves how this could have been prevented.

Here are six factors that can help identify who is at risk for suicide.

1. A previous attempt:  It is estimated that for every completed suicide, there are anywhere from 11 to 25 attempts.  Hospitals see at least eight times more patients for self-inflicted injuries than the average number of suicides per year.  In the case of suicide, past behavior can be a predictor for future behavior.

2. Family:  Those with a family history of suicide are at higher risk.  Not only are genetic factors inherited from family, but maladaptive patterns of coping can be learned.  Some people may feel they are destined for suicide if those in generations past died from suicide.  Those who have experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse in their families are also at risk.

3. Depression: Not all people who die by suicide are experiencing acute mental illness.  However, having a history of depression or other mental illness can make coping with everyday life difficult and is a risk factor.  Some studies cite that up to 90 percent of those who commit suicide have been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder.

  1. Substance Abuse: A 2009 study showed that 25 to 40 percent of suicide victims had alcohol in their bodies at the time of death. About 69 percent of suicide deaths occur by prescription drug overdose. The use of drugs and alcohol can cloud judgment, enhance impulsivity and
  2. Sexuality and gender issues: Individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender can be outcasts in society and face stigma and discrimination on a daily basis.  This, along with negative family reactions, conflict with spirituality/religious affiliation, higher rates of violence and substance abuse make this population vulnerable. Suicide among LGBT youth is particularly high, with up to 30-40 percent attempting suicide.

6. Access to means: An immediate risk factor for suicide is one’s access to the means used to commit suicide.  Are there guns and knives in the home? Is medication being stockpiled? How likely is it that someone could access these things?

These are just a few risk factors.  Others include being bullied, PTSD/Military involvement, being male, incarceration, living in a rural community, physical illness, lack of treatment, hopelessness, and grief or loss.  As a graduate school professor once told me, “Suicide happens when the world throws a situation at you that you don’t have the resources to cope with besides death.” Any stressful situation may lead to someone considering suicide.

How to help:

Be a good listener. Be non-judgmental. Offer hope that things can get better with help. Pay attention to mood and the risk factors listed above.

Don’t be afraid to ask “Are you thinking about suicide?” This shows you are not afraid of the situation and clears up any gray areas.

Offer to find local resources and help. Find a licensed mental health professional who can help.

Call 911 if situation is imminently life-threatening.

More about how to help a suicidal person here: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/suicide_prevention.htm

Jessica Spence, MC, NCC, LPC, LCAS-R is the Mental Health and Wellness Staff Writer for Social Work Helper, and she is also a Licensed Professional Counselor with Tree of Life Counseling in Greensboro, North Carolina, US. She is a National Certified Counselor and is registered with the North Carolina Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board. She also participates in The Secular Therapist Project.

2 Comments
Travis Lloyd Travis Lloyd says:

Awesome. Thank you. I am preparing a campaign based on improving awareness of the prevalence of suicidal thoughts in college students. Thanks for the reference!

Been there. Didn’t do it. I thank Humanism.

LGBTQ

It’s National Coming Out Day

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Today is National Coming Out Day which is a day of raising awareness and destigmatization for the LGBTQ community.

Texting is the preferred method of communication for young people.

Proof you have great friends who also will throw you a party.

Great Advice, don’t feel pressured to do anything or be afraid to show your true self…Write your own story!

Happy Coming Out Day!

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LGBTQ

Military Service Boosts Resilience, Well-Being Among Transgender Veterans

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Transgender people make up a small percentage of active-duty U.S. military personnel, but their experience in the service may yield long-term, positive effects on their mental health and quality of life.

A study from the University of Washington finds that among transgender older adults, those who had served in the military reported fewer symptoms of depression and greater mental health-related quality of life. The findings were published in a February special supplement of The Gerontologist.

The paper is part of a national, groundbreaking longitudinal study of LGBT older adults, known as “Aging with Pride: National Health, Aging, Sexuality/Gender Study,” which focuses on how a range of demographic factors, life events and medical conditions are associated with health and quality of life.

Estimated numbers of U.S. military personnel who are transgender vary widely, but range between one-tenth and three-quarters of 1 percent of the roughly 2 million active-duty and reserve forces. A study from UCLA estimates about 134,000 transgender veterans in the United States.

The new paper, by researchers from the UW School of Social Work, explores how military service affects transgender people because previous data indicated that, among LGBT people over age 50, those who identified as transgender were more likely to be veterans than lesbians, gay men or bisexuals.

Reports have indicated that transgender individuals serve in the military at higher rates than people in the general population. In the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey of 28,000 individuals, 15 percent said they had served, compared to about 9 percent of the U.S. population overall. And yet, little is known about how military service influences the well-being of transgender veterans later in life.

Other studies have shown that transgender veterans suffer higher rates of depression than other veterans. UW researchers were somewhat surprised, then, to learn that the transgender veterans they surveyed tended to have better mental health than transgender people who hadn’t served, said lead author Charles Hoy-Ellis, a former UW doctoral student who is now an assistant professor at the University of Utah College of Social Work.

The traditionally masculine culture of the U.S. military would seem to be a potentially difficult environment for someone who doesn’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, he said.

But military service creates its own kind of identity, the authors said, because it presents often dangerous and traumatic challenges; overcoming those challenges builds resilience. And that’s where the identity as a transgender person enters the picture.

“Many people develop an identity as a military person — that it’s not just something they did but something that they are,” said Hoy-Ellis. “If transgender people, who are among the most marginalized, can successfully navigate a military career, with so many of the dynamics around gender in the general population and in the military, then that experience can contribute to a type of identity cohesiveness.”

The internalizing of negative stereotypes, such as those around sexual orientation, is considered a risk factor for poor mental health, added co-author Hyun-Jun Kim, a UW research scientist in the School of Social Work. Military service could be the opposite — a protective factor.

“Often when people think of the transgender population, they focus on the risk factors, but it’s equally important to focus on the protective factors and nourish those resources. In this case, what aspects of military service contribute to being a protective factor?” Kim said.

Researchers said they were somewhat limited by the size of their study sample: Out of the 2,450 people ages 50 to 100 who were surveyed for Aging with Pride, 183 identified as transgender. Of those nearly one-fourth, or 43, had served in the military. Of those who had served, 57 percent identified as female. People of color made up 29 percent of the transgender veterans in the study.

But as awareness grows about gender-identity issues, there is an opportunity to address support services for transgender veterans at the federal level and in the community, Hoy-Ellis said.

“This is a population that has served the country very proudly, and it’s important that we recognize that service,” he said. “Learning what we can about transgender older adults with military service may help us develop and implement policies and programs for people who are serving today.”

Other co-authors were Chengshi Shiu, Kathleen Sullivan, Allison Sturges and Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen, all in the UW School of Social Work. Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging.

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Culture

Transgender TV Characters Have the Power to Shape Audience Attitudes

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transgender teen

Watching transgender characters on fictional TV shows has the power to influence attitudes toward transgender people and policy issues, according to new research from USC Annenberg. Just published in the peer-reviewed journal Sex Roles, the research further highlights the ways political ideology shapes viewer responses to transgender depictions in entertainment.

The researchers surveyed 488 regular viewers of the USA Network series Royal Pains, of whom 391 saw a June 2015 episode featuring a portrayal of a transgender teen, played by transgender activist Nicole Maines. Those who saw this episode had more positive attitudes toward both transgender people and related policies, such as students using bathrooms aligned with their gender identity. The fictional Royal Pains storyline was more influential than news events; exposure to transgender issues in the news and Caitlyn Jenner’s transition (which was unfolding at the time of the research) had no effect on attitudes.

Beyond the impact of the Royal Pains episode, the study is the first to demonstrate the effect of cumulative exposure to transgender portrayals, across multiple shows. The more shows featuring transgender characters (such as Amazon’s Transparent and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black) that viewers saw, the more transgender-supportive their attitudes. Viewing two or more transgender storylines reduced the association between viewers’ political ideology and their attitudes toward transgender people by half.

According to Traci Gillig, a doctoral candidate at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the lead author on the study, “While media visibility of transgender people reached new levels in recent years, little has been known about the effects of that visibility. Our study shows the power of entertainment narratives to influence viewers’ attitudes toward transgender people and policy issues.”

The research was conducted in collaboration with Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S), a program of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center that serves as a free resource to the entertainment industry on TV storylines addressing health, safety and national security issues. HH&S Director Kate Langrall Folb explains: “We worked closely with the Royal Pains writers, connecting them with medical experts and providing information for the storyline.”

The results of this research suggest increased visibility of transgender characters in mainstream entertainment can have far-reaching influence on public perceptions of transgender people and the policies that impact them.

“Watching TV shows with nuanced transgender characters can break down ideological biases in a way that news stories may not. This is especially true when the stories inspire hope or when viewers can relate to the characters,” said HH&S Senior Research Associate Erica Rosenthal.

Read more about the research in an analysis by Gillig and Rosenthal. “Can transgender TV characters help bridge an ideological divide?” was published by The Conversation.

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