The suicide epidemic

The suicide epidemic

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Suicide in the United States is on the rise — in some states, exponentially. Nationwide, suicide rates have risen by 25 percent from 1999 to 2016, according to a report from the CDC this month.

In Pennsylvania, suicides increased by 34 percent. This may be news for the heterosexual community, but we already know that roughly 40 percent of transgender people attempt suicide; of them, 92 percent attempt it before age 25. These statistics came out in 2015, courtesy of the UN Transgender Survey. We also know from the Trevor Project that LGBTQ youth attempt suicide at almost four times the rate of heterosexuals. Some reasons for these dire numbers include bullying, rejection by loved ones, addiction and, of course, discrimination.

Last weekend, Mazzoni Center held a workshop on suicide in the trans community. What came out of it was something of a surprise: the urgent call for LGBTQ data to be included in suicide-prevention research.

The current model for suicide prevention does not take sexual or gender identity into consideration. Given the statistics for LGBTQ suicide, this means a high-risk population is essentially invisible in the prevention research. That is at least in part because sexual identity is not a protected class. Race, religion, color, national origin and physical and mental abilities are all protected from discrimination, but sexual identity is not. It is less a question of providing special protections for minorities than simply creating an equal playing field, where everyone can be counted and everyone has the same access to resources.

In terms of suicide prevention, it means being seen as a vulnerable class of people with its own needs and priorities that merit the same attention by researchers as everyone else. 

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