It’s Mental Health Awareness Month
Today is mental health awareness day, and we thought it was important to highlight suicide in teenagers. As a parent, this is something I fear greatly. I worry that my child will be depressed and I’ll miss the signs, or that they’ll get to the point they feel so hopeless they have no where to turn.
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Suicide in LGBT youth
Did you know that suicide is the number one cause of death in LGBT youths? These youths are up to six times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts with 1,500 succeeding each year.
If you have a gay, lesbian, or otherwise nonconforming child, these statistics can be horrifying. However, the very fact that you are reading this now is a step in the right direction. A large number of parents who lose their children to suicide have rejected their children in some way, causing their child to feel unloved, unwanted, and as though they are nothing more than a burden.
Between 20-40% of LGBT kids are homeless, many as a result of running away or being kicked out. From rejection, these teens will often turn to substance abuse which further increases the likelihood of suicide. Here are some ways you be proactive about your child’s mental health and take an active role in reducing the odds that they’ll become a statistic.
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Be Accepting and Open
The basis of preventing suicide in gay and lesbian teens is acceptance. A teen who has a safe space where they can be themselves without fear is a critical component in their well-being. As a parent, one of your most important roles is that of protector. As such, you aim to make the home a welcoming, safe environment for your child in which they feel accepted and supported.
You also need to ensure that your teen knows you are willing to listen when they need to talk. If your child is experiencing depression or struggling with an addiction, you must cultivate a calm, collected demeanor. A teen who experiences a negative reaction from their parent when seeking help is far less likely to try to ask for help again. This can have dire consequences.
Protect Your Child
There is a large percentage of people in the world who think it is acceptable to verbally or even physically attack gay and lesbian teens. As a parent, you should be aware of any bullying or harassment your teen is experiencing. If they say they are being targeted, you should waste no time in speaking to administration or authorities. Your child needs to know you are there to defend them and support them no matter what.
Protecting your children can also mean protecting them from themselves. If your teen is struggling with depression, addiction, or suicidal thoughts, it falls on you to get them help. Teens do not have the confidentiality and independence adults do. They need you on their side in order to receive mental health care, a key component in suicide prevention.
If you aren’t sure where to turn to seek help initially, you may want to start with a suicide hotline. These numbers will route you to a trained volunteer who may be able to give you a few options for treatment.
Gay and lesbian teens can often feel isolated from the rest of their peers, particularly in more conservative areas. It is important that they have others to share their experiences with. Support groups for parents of gay and lesbian teens might be a good place to start. You will be able to interact with possibly more experienced parents while your child will learn that there are other teens experiencing similar challenges who can offer advice and support.
Teens who isolate themselves and lack a friend group are much more likely to spiral into depression, resulting in the potential for addiction and suicidal thoughts. Even if there is not a support group near you, the internet is a great place to go for interaction with others in the same situation. Online support groups are becoming more and more common as finding and attending an in-person, local support group can be difficult.
Protecting your child from the addiction and suicide rates of the LGBT community is a matter of creating safety and acceptance for your teen. Teens who struggle with depression have likely been rejected either socially or by their own families, causing negative self-image and lowered self-worth. As long as you love your child and support them for being who they are, you are already on the right path.
This post was contributed by Chloe Pearson, a research specialist and freelance writer.