Monday, February 11, 2013

Suicide and LGBTQ People and Same Sex Couples

From my column:

I am not a person who has known the deep darkness of depression. I have had days when I was filled with great sadness for long periods of time. But this is not the same as depression. I am not acquainted with days where my mood was so low, it would take everything within me to take my head off of a pillow, get dressed, and to follow a daily schedule. I’ve not been weighed down with questioning my self-esteem or dealt with a loss of interest in life or absence of pleasure when pursuing my usual enjoyable activities.
However, I am well acquainted with friends who struggle daily with depression. And many of these people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) parents who are living — well, hiding — in the closet to protect themselves from a social culture of oppression and threat.
Examples of LGBTQ Suicides
The issue of depression and suicide among LGBTQ people became prominent mostly recently with the death of young Aaron Swartz, a 26-year-old programmer. On Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, he was found dead in his apartment of an apparent suicide. His is but the most recent death of a young person who is gay, lesbian, or questioning.
  • In 2010, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi of Rutgers University jumped off the Washington Bridge after his roommate caught Tyler in a romantic encounter with another man in their dorm room.
  • In November 2012, Josh Pacheco of Michigan took his life after being pushed into lockers and teased by classmates because of the fact that he was gay. He was found in his truck in a closed garage, with this note: “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to be strong enough.”
However, suicide among older closeted lesbian and gay men and women — many of them parents in opposite-sex or straight marriages — is under-reported. Numerous studies in the last decade have focused upon depression and suicide among adolescent and young adults who are LGBTQ. There is a higher rate of attempted suicide among this population than the same age group of straight people, and suicide in this group occurs more often in conservative parts of the nation where their experiences of oppression and fear may be greater.

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