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Another LGBT Suicide — Are We Doing Enough?

Another LGBT Suicide — Are We Doing Enough?

There has been unquestionable support burning through the country in the wake of a string of LGBT youth suicides.  Dan Savage’s “It Get’s Better Project” has blown up featuring celebrities ranging from President Obama to Project Runway’s Tim Gunn.  ”The Trevor Project,” a gay youth suicide prevention organization, has seen a nearly 75% increase in call volume daily.

And yet late Thursday evening, came news of another gay youth suicideBrandon Bitner, a 14-year-old freshman from Middleburg, Pa., left a note saying he was tired of being called a “sissy” and “faggot” and he wanted to draw attention to the problem of bullying.  He jumped in front of a moving tractor trailer to take his own life.  Brandon was a talented musician, aspiring to become a violinist. He was buried Wednesday, November 10th.

At this point it is pretty obvious our LGBT youth are in crisis and need support.  What isn’t so obvious is just how bad the suicide situation has become.  According to a news release from Equality Forum, “It is estimated that about 500 gay teens each year or 40 gay teens per month take their lives as a result of homophobia.”

Tyler Clementi’s jump from the George Washington Bridge is probably the most discussed tragedy, but definitely isn’t the only.  Many may feel this heightened media awareness is great for generating conversation and action for the cause, and while it is fantastic that so many people are really trying to reach out, not just to our gay and trans youth, but all of our youth, we must also be very aware how each suicide case is discussed with our youth.

Experts who fear “copycat” suicide cases, or more professionally called “contagion” cases, suggest that people become more mindful of how the tragedies are discussed with youth by not just stating what happened in the final hour of the suicide victim’s lives, but more specifically about the series of events that led to a place of mental unrest.  With all of the media coverage, we don’t want already troubled youth to get the idea that suicide somehow ended someone’s pain and perhaps could end theres too, or give them the notion that they can be a martyr for bullied youth.

It is not only important to communicate the devastation to our youth, but also, include the pain of the families.  Explain that this was a very permanent solution to a temporary problem.  We should also let them know this sort of pain was brewing for a long time without support, and offer resources such as crisis hotlines or The Trevor Project online chat.

With all of the efforts made, one is left to ask, is it really working?  It appears people are doing all they can while riding this momentum, yet, there’s now another victim.  It is probably safe to say that we can’t completely solve this problem today, this week, or even next month, but the impact of each young person that has taken their life can feel overwhelming.            

What do you think?  How can we organize in our communities, reach young people, stop bullying, and save lives?  Plainly stated, 40 suicides a month are just too many.  That is more than one person per day.  As a community of online readers interested in this topic, share your experiences, success stories, and solutions if you feel comfortable doing so.  You never know, you may save a life.

If you communicate with young people or know someone who does, please pass along these suicide prevention resources:


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photo credit: thanks to dreamsjung via flickr

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73 comments

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6:27PM PDT on May 31, 2011

When suicides are completely eradicated, as in NOBODY attempting them, then we have succeeded. So NO! we have unfortunately not succeeded in stopping these tragedies. May God comfort the families of the people who chose to do this.

5:05AM PDT on May 31, 2011

thanks

10:02PM PST on Dec 6, 2010

I am lesbian, and I would like to help people understand why the suicides happen. Having considered suicide often, my greatest hurt is the hate I see in my families eyes since I told them I was lesbian. The support from the general community is so encouraging, it gives us such hope for a better future...so don't think it doesn't matter. But our homophobic families don't change, at least not yet. My hope is that one day, our families will love us like they used to, before they knew that we were not heterosexual like them.

To all gay and lesbian, trans etc, it may be bleak now, but slavery used to be the "societal norm", women were not allowed to vote or have careers. But society changed, and we are at the beginning of that change for us. Hold on. A new day is coming. Until then...acceptance, love, freedom and peace to all.

5:43PM PST on Dec 6, 2010

We are a people divided.
Pro Bullies:
In our schools and in our homes, we push our children to be better, stronger, the ability to dominate our opponent is barked at them every day from the minute they can speak, till the day they graduate college.
Everyone knows how sports athletes are given preferential treatment by the majority of the students, and even the teachers and faculty support this treatment by favoring strong students to smart students.
Sports is by nature, the domination of one person over another. But not all bullies are sports oriented. Many are from parents who are unavailable to teach any better, or are merely children themselves. The attention they lack at home gets translated into vengeance at school.
Anti Bullies:
Victims are people who are non-violent and easily dominated. Small effeminate boys are usually a prime target for bullies. Sexuality can be used for justification in a bullies mind, but even if that were taken from the equation, a bully is still going to go after that person just because they are a weaker opponent. Whatever excuse they can find they will use.
If you protect one child from bullying, a bully will either increase its intensity, or seek another victim.
If you protect one child, you leave another open for even more abuse. Also, the ones who you leave out, you send a message to them that they are not important enough to protect.
We cannot change our children, until we change.

3:43PM PST on Dec 5, 2010

While many of us may be doing good work for this cause, you can bet that the radical Right, including the teapartiers, are still yapping about it in their homes, churches and schools. Since they are not a brainly lot, their mantra hasn't changed. Thus, whatever many of us do or believe or try to get to LGBT youth, this hateful, negative, destructive song is playing in the background. Unfortunately, Martin S, these kids haven't had TIME to toughen up.

12:57PM PST on Dec 4, 2010

More than anything, I blame our outmoded educational system for this. As long as we continue to stick to an "assembly line" model for education, we will continue to marginalize all sorts of individuals who are just a little bit different from the others.

Students like this need to be in a comfortable and nurturing environment that concentrates on real learning in a place where they can feel safe and valued. The concept of mass customization MUST be brought to our educational system to replace the assembly line, and the terror of classrooms and playgrounds disbanded forever in favor of carefully chosen nurturing peer groups and modular educational experiences at all levels tailored to each individual student's level of academic achievement and ability to learn regardless of their age.

8:10AM PST on Dec 4, 2010

Sad, unneeded, and caused by non-thinking school"mates".

Things are maybe getting better, but not fast enough.

Parents, educate your kids!

6:58AM PST on Dec 4, 2010

Others also die from their inabilities to stand the taunts of bullies. While it is important to remember the particular taunts that took this life,let us unify rather than divide.When young, I put the barrel of a loaded gun inside my mouth.In my case it was teachers,administrators,other students,a coach,& my parents.Sometimes,there is no one to turn to.I kept it to myself.Many teachers tried to molest me.Others used fists,steel drawing rulers,a pool cue,belts,& one a baseball bat sawed in half lengthwise.The one who defended me was fired.Parents have to be there for their children,yet often they will not or are part of the trouble.There must be a way for children to bypass schools,& it is not the police.Something like"Pathfinders for Those in Need".Telephone numbers, counselors,who have authority.The problem is much worse than most understand.There should also be legal help.When I taught,I found most problem with their studies was not their studies,but,something deep & personal.There are teachers who students trust,but we must face facts.To students, teachers are often perceived as remote & distant authority figures.There ought to be drop boxes in schools, where notes can be left for counselors as a start.I think that trusted help will mainly be found outside of the system.No fill in dot tests, although,the student,the child, should be encouraged to write about it.Trust is not an easy thing to find or build.Gradually,the child might trust a group.A life is

10:41AM PST on Nov 28, 2010

It's going to take a very visible support for progress from the majority of societies representatives to do enough good.

11:07PM PST on Nov 27, 2010

Obviously there is not enough being done

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