Can We Prevent Youth Suicide by Promoting Inclusivity?

A just-released study in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” shows that American LGBTQ youth are at a markedly higher risk for suicide than their heterosexual peers. Based on 2015 survey data, these findings are perhaps unsurprising for members and allies of this group, but the authors note that little formal research has specifically examined how sexuality or gender identity impacts suicide risk.

Unfortunately, youth of minority sexual or gender identities are only one vulnerable group at an overly high risk for suicide. North of the border, indigenous Canadian youth also face serious mental health risks. In fact, several First Nations leaders have declared their communities to be in states of emergency due to the rising suicide crisis.

In fact, both American and Canadian societies seem broken in their inability or unwillingness to effectively deal with the obvious pain facing so many community members.

Yes, there’s a certain amount of mystery as to why some people kill themselves. Many who successfully end their lives do not leave notes behind, and sometimes little is known about their ongoing pain, even by close families and friends. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

Suicide rates for certain demographics are at several times their respective national averages. Clearly, some of these lives could be saved.

Increased suicide rates are often tied to precipitating social factors including prejudice, discrimination, bullying and harassment, as well as economic and social support policy. What this means, ethically, is that our failure to be inclusive and provide necessary supports comes with an easily calculable death toll.

There has been some — justified – criticism of last year’s Netflix show about teen suicide, “13 Reasons Why“. One argument the show makes, however,  is that often there is a reason why – be it bullying, economic hardship or bigotry.

Suicide is also a canary in the coal mine, signaling higher rates of depression and unhappiness within vulnerable groups. We can’t treat mental health issues as an unknowable mystery when we can clearly how our actions play a role.

So, what kind of a community do we want to inhabit, and how are we working to get there each and every day? That’s a question we will need to ask ourselves until every member of society feels equally strongly that life is worth living.

Photo Credit: ANDRIK LANGFIELD PETRIDES/Unsplash

50 comments

Janis K
Janis K4 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Hill6 days ago

Thanks for this article

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Benjamin B
Benjamin B6 days ago

great article

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Liliana G
Liliana Garcia6 days ago

There are very good comments here. I agree the article is basically generalizations. The link on Canadian indigenous youth was surprising to me though. I have two thoughts: one, if the rates are going up so fast there must be by now some idea as to the main precipitating factors at least in some cases. Second, I think those who attempt and fail to kill themselves are the best teachers in what takes place before and during the attempt. People around the deceased by suicide are often too confused or guilt ridden to really shed light.

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Angelika Kempter
Angelika K8 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Danuta W
Danuta W8 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Joan E
Joan E10 days ago

I just saw the gay movie Call Me By Your Name, which was nominated for Golden Globe Awards. It shows a gay teen having his first love relationship with a gay man a few years older, and it's a happy experience. It may be a good movie for gay teens to see if all they are used to is hellfire and bullying. It can let them know that things can work out fine for them.

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Ruth S
Ruth S10 days ago

Thanks.

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caroline lord
caroline lord11 days ago

yes. Ty.

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Antje S
Antje S11 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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