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Preventing Suicide in the GLBTQ Young Adult Population Adapted from a Presentation by Barry M. Vesciglio, Ph.D. Melany C. Tromba, M.S.

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Presentation on theme: "Preventing Suicide in the GLBTQ Young Adult Population Adapted from a Presentation by Barry M. Vesciglio, Ph.D. Melany C. Tromba, M.S."— Presentation transcript:

1 Preventing Suicide in the GLBTQ Young Adult Population Adapted from a Presentation by Barry M. Vesciglio, Ph.D. Melany C. Tromba, M.S.

2 Powerpoint adapted by Hugh Muldoon, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Illinois

3 Workshop Goals Become familiar with the prevalence of suicide and GBLT young adult suicide Recognize risk factors for GLBTQ young adult suicide Increase awareness of warning signs of psychological distress Identify special needs, guidelines for practice, and interventions with this population

4 Prevalence Data Suicide is the 11th ranking cause of death in the U.S. (MacIntosh, 2003) Suicide is the 3rd ranking cause of death for youth (15-24 y.o.) (MacIntosh, 2003) GLBTQ students comprise 4.5%- 9% of the high school population (Safe Schools Coalition, 1999) It is estimated that GLBTQ youth attempt suicide at a rate 2-3 times higher than their heterosexual peers, and account for 30% of annual youth suicide (Gibson, 1989 as cited in Remafedi, 1999) Some studies suggest that the rate of attempted suicide for transgender youth is higher than 50% (Cody, 2002)

5 Prevalence Data Cont’d Research suggest that “coming out” at a younger age, gender atypicality, low self-esteem substance abuse, homelessness, history of sexual abuse, family conflict appear to be related to suicidality (Remafedi, Farrow, and Deisher, 1991) Youths with same-sex orientation were at higher risk for suicidal thoughts, more likely to report suicidality, and 2 times more likely to attempt suicide (Russell and Joyner, 2001) GLB youth that reported high levels of at-school victimization reported higher levels of suicidality than their heterosexual peers (Bontempo and D’Augelli, 2002)

6 Issues Facing GLBTQ Young Adults Suicide School Drop-Out IsolationViolenceHomelessnessHIV/AIDS Student Attitudes Staff Attitudes Health Issues Depression

7 Predominant Stressors GLBTQ Young Adults Face concealment of sexual orientation and/or gender expression disclosure of sexual orientation and/or gender identity sense of isolation inaccessible or unavailable resources casual discussions with family and friends are risky talking with counselors in schools is hampered by fear of disclosure to others (teachers, staff, etc) and by fear of judgment

8 Characteristics Impacting Mental Health of GLBTQ Young Adults invisibility the assumptions of others—peers and family—that they are defective the stigmatization that follows the assumption of deviance others’ assumption that all lesbian and gay individuals are alike (Herdt, 1989) absence of positive role models development of a “negative self” that results from the relentless heterosexism and homophobia of university culture (Plummer, 1989)

9 Risk Factors for Suicide Psychiatric disorders (i.e., affective disorders, conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, substance abuse, and eating disorders) Hx of previous suicide attempts Poor coping and problem solving skills (including low self-efficacy and low social support seeking) Hopelessness Stressful life events and chronic physical illness Accessibility to a lethal weapon (especially firearms) A family Hx of suicide Recent suicide attempt or completion by a friend or family member Low self-esteem Family violence Peer difficulties Interpersonal conflict w/a parent or romantic partner Experiences of intense shame or humiliation (including child abuse and corporal punishment) Low academic achievement and school problems

10 Specific Factors Linked to Increased Risk for GLBTQ Young Adults Gender role atypicality Substance abuse/dependence The individual feels deeply troubled by his/her sexual orientation Experienced rejection, humiliation, bullying by peers or has lost friends Has been rejected or expects rejection from various family members Has been subjected to persistent, long-term victimization (verbal or physical)

11 General Warning Signs Unrelenting low mood PessimismHopelessnessDesperation Anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension Withdrawal/Isolation Sleep problems Increased alcohol and/or other drug use Unexpected rage or anger Recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die Making a plan: Giving away prized possessions, sudden or impulsive purchase of a firearm, obtaining other means of killing oneself such as poisons or medications

12 Other Warning Signs Preoccupation with death or dying Writing notes or poems about suicide or death Facing a perceived "humiliating" situation Facing a perceived "failure" Feeling excessive guilt or shame Irritability Frequently somatic complaints (i.e., headaches, stomach aches, etc.) Neglecting personal appearance A dramatic change in personal appearance. A dramatic change in personality Performing poorly at work or in school

13 Suicide Myths People who talk about suicide are just trying to get attention. People who talk about wanting to die by suicide do not try to kill themselves. Suicide always occurs without any warning signs. Once people decide to die by suicide, there is nothing you can do to stop them. When people who are suicidal feel better, they are no longer suicidal. Young people never think about suicide, they have their entire life ahead of them.

14 Suicide Myths Cont’d People who attempt suicide and survive will not attempt suicide again. People who attempt suicide are crazy. People who talk about suicide are trying to manipulate others. People who are suicidal definitely want to die. You should never ask people who are suicidal person if they are thinking about suicide or if they have thought about a method, because just talking about it will give them the idea.

15 Intervention Strategies for Teachers and Counselors Always take suicidal comments seriously If your university has a suicide protocol, follow it Be aware of your limits of confidentiality Listen attentively, remain calm Get help, do not handle the situation by yourself, document interventions Let the person know you are concerned Validate feelings, comfort, encourage, reassure, support

16 Intervention Strategies for Teachers and Counselors Cont’d Provide information and explore resources if necessary If the person is at high risk, do not leave them alone, call 911 or take them to the emergency room if necessary Talk openly and frankly about suicide Allow the person to express emotions freely and appropriately Make appropriate referrals Follow up Debrief with co-workers, colleagues

17 Ten Suggestions for Reducing Homophobia in Your Environment Make no assumption about sexuality. Have something gay-related visible in your office. Support, normalize and validate students' feelings about their sexuality. Do not advise young adults to come out to parents, family and friends as they need to come out at their own safe pace. Guarantee confidentiality with students. Challenge homophobia. Combat heterosexism in your classroom. Learn about and refer to community organizations. Encourage university administrators to adopt and enforce anti-discrimination policies which include sexual orientation. Provide positive GLBT role models.

18 Got Questions?Got Questions?Got Questions?Got Questions?


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