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Is The Trevor Project Suggesting That LGBT Suicides Are Better Off Out Of Sight And Out of Mind?

Yesterday, on Spirit Day Interim executive director and CEO of The Trevor Project David McFarland wrote this in an Op-Ed that appeared in The Advocate stressing the point between suicide contagion and media coverage.

When we draw direct lines from sexual orientation or bullying to suicide, it can influence someone who is at-risk to assume that taking your own life is what you’re supposed to do next if you are LGBT or bullied. This may not seem rational, but attempting to take your own life is an irrational act.As a caring community, we can help avoid making suicide appear like a logical choice by putting distance between statements or stories describing instances of bullying and instances of suicide

Another factor that increases risk is suicide contagion – the link between media reports and a person’s decision to attempt suicide. In other words, the more a story of a particular victim is out there, the more likely one or more people who are at-risk will also attempt suicide. The recent tragedy in Ottawa appears to have occurred as a combination of compromised psychological well-being influenced by factors of contagion. That the young person was also the victim of anti-LGBT bullying made a bad situation even worse

Now before I start I want to say that I have a HUGE respect for the Trevor Project and the work that they do.  I really do.  But the whole subject of LGBT bullying really hits home for me because I was RELENTLESSLY bullied during my teen years.  Day in and day out.  I was called names, I was harassed, I was beaten up and yes I’ll admit that a few times I thought about killing myself. 

But when I had those feelings it was not because I had heard of others who had done it to escape, but because I felt I was so alone, and that no one was going through what  went through and that there was no help to be had. 

I understand where the Trevor Project is coming from. But suicide contagion takes its roots in a mental disorder that is not prevalent in many individuals. I’m not saying that its not dangerous or something threatening to LGBT youths.   But studies of GLBT suicides indicate a higher rate of suicide with a wide range of percentages which have ben disproportionately high for decades. But it has onlybeen  in the past year that the rest of the world has finally taken notice because the stories  of the bullied have been reported in the media and on blogs where it hasn’t in the past because of newspapers internal policies involving privacy and age laws of young offenders. And  not because of  fears of suicide contagion.

But now according to The Trevor Project reporting suicides MIGHT encourages those on the cusp of killing themselves to go ahead and do it.  But NOT reporting them leaves the impression that they are rare, isolated incidents rather than a symptom of something larger that needs correcting.

But there’s another thing that irks me greatly about yesterdays piece.  Is that it puts the suicide itself on the victim.  That it was the victims fault or that they are mentally ill  and David  McFarland does not say anything about the tortures and hell that these kids go though to get to that tipping point.  A point which I know well first hand.

Personally I am dismayed that the Trevor Project would take this rode.  “Suicide contagium” is not the problem.  Bully’s are, lack of support networks are, the fear and  feelings of being alone are,  and knowing that there is no one out there that will stop it for you and protect you.   That’s the REAL problem.  And in the past year since the stories of our lost LGBT children have come to life wondrous and excellent support networks, programs, and friends have stepped forward to help. 

Would that have happened if their stories were never told?  Would there be a “It Gets Better Project”?  Would the Trevor Project itself gotten the exposure that it needs to help these kids?  I doubt it.

As I said I do hold the Trevor Project in high regard but I think on this issue they are wrong and they need to work more on the causes of bullying, preventing it mentoring the troubled, and creating safe spaces and lives for our LGBT youth. 

These children’s stories must be told and and they cannot be forgotten or pushed into a closet so others remain unaware of the problem.  LGBT youth NEED TO KNOW that it is not only happening  to them, that suicide is the wrong choice, that there is help available, and that they are not alone.

But that’s just my opinion. 

I’m not the expert.  I was only a victim. 

 

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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