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 suicide. Brandon 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:
photo credit: thanks to dreamsjung via flickr
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