Here are the facts. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24. Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers. Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives and one quarter report to having made a suicide attempt. And young adults who are questioning their sexual identity are three times more likely. When compared to their straight peers, suicide attempts by LGBT youth and questioning youth are four to six times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose requiring treatment from a doctor or nurse. LGBT youth who come from not accepting and rejecting families are more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide than their LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. One out of every six student’s nationwide (grades 9-12) seriously considered suicide in the past year. Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by two point five times on average.
These statistics are here for your knowledge and can be found at the Trevor Project. These facts are helpful because, on a personal note, they made me feel less alone. Most people suffering from depression or another mental illness, can feel alone and scared. Unfortunately, for many members of the LGBT community, it can be hard to find someone to relate to and who can help. Even if you aren’t a part of the LGBT community, you can still take an active role in working with a queer person who is looking for help. You can learn to become how to be a successful ally, someone who advocates for and supports a community who is not their own.
Here are some helpful tips on becoming an ally and learning to comfort a person who identifies as queer and is asking for help.
“L” is for Love
Remember that love, although it may seem required, is not always given. Youth who identify as queer have a higher rate of not being accepted by their families. Sometimes what they need most is to know that someone is there who loves them and will support them through their struggle.
“G” is for Grateful
Try and remind the individual who identifies as queer you are talking to that you are grateful for them. Remind them that being queer doesn’t define their whole life. For example, if they are really good at DIY (Do It Yourself) projects, remind them how grateful you are for the awesome candles they made you. Their queer identity does not affect their DIY skills at all. We all have multiple identities, multiple aspects of who we are, remind them they are more than “just queer.”
“B” is for Bridging
This is a tricky one. Sometimes when an ally is trying to build a bridge of common ground between themselves and a person who is queer, the queer person find it hard to take their words to heart. Sometimes it’s hard because the queer person might feel like the ally has no idea what they are going through. In cases like these, the best thing an ally can do is listen, and remind them that they are there to do whatever it takes to make them feel better.
“T” is for time
During the life of a person who is queer time plays an important role. It can vary from a single moment in time (someone getting kicked out of their house because their parents found out they were queer) or a longer period of time (coming out slowly to a few people at a time). In cases like this, I strongly recommend patience, love, and communication. As an ally tell them that you will be there for them. When they need it, hold their hand, listen and provide feedback/advice.
Even if you do not identify as part of the LGBT community, you still have an important role to play. You can learn to be an ally. As I type this blog, I am tearing up. The more I work with queer youth, the more I hear “If I had had just one person to talk to, maybe it wouldn’t have been so hard.” You and I can be that person. Together we can change the world and make those earlier statistics a truth of the past. Let’s remind people that they matter.