Three segments of the LGBT community and suicide

Providing affirming social settings for LGBT elders can help build community, reduce loneliness, and reduce suicide rates. (Photo from the Boston Globe)

Here is the next monthly guest blog from my cousin Brandon Garrick, Masters of Social Work Candidate at North Carolina State University. This blog expands upon his last month’s blog, “Five facts you may not know about suicide, and connection to diversity.” This specific blogs goes into one diversity constituency I work very closely with as a workplace diversity consultant, the LGBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) community.

Suicide can be a difficult and sensitive subject to discuss in detail as it is a problematic social issue that affects all members of society. I have done various research and have attended multiple suicide prevention workshops and there is one major target population that is always discussed when it comes to suicide. The L.G.B.T.Q. (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning) community is at higher risks for suicide then their heterosexual counterpart. I will discuss three specific areas of the L.G.B.T.Q community that is at severely higher risks of suicide.

1. Youth. L.G.B.T.Q youth have high risks of suicide and contemplation of suicide according to multiple research studies. According to the Trevor Project, L.G.B. youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth. In addition L.G.B. youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt,with 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25. For more information on this major area that needs focus, link to the Trevor Project.

2. Rural L.G.B.T.Q individuals. Individuals who identify with the L.G.B.T.Q. community who live in rural areas are at higher risks then L.G.B.T.Q. individuals who live in urban areas. There has been ample research explaining why rural L.G.B.T.Q are at higher risks then their city living counterparts. Research shows that there is generally wider acceptance of LGBTQ people in cities, were there is far less social stigma around sexual orientation. More resources need to be focused on this severely under-served population, made complicated by rural areas often being spread out and difficult to reach compared to concentrated city centers.

3. Older L.G.B.T.Q individuals. Isolation and dealing with multiple physical issues have generally put senior citizens at a higher risk for suicide then younger adults. However the gap is significantly increases for senior members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. I recently attended a presentation by SAGE (an organization supporting LGBT leaders) that explained why suicide is a major issue for older L.G.B.T.Q members. One issue is the decreased presence of similar individuals within senior living faculties. The L.G.B.T.Q community is already a societal minority, now imagine being older in a senior living with no other L.G.B.T.Q. seniors among you. The importance of having social relationships is vital to fight depression when it comes to getting older. Research indicates that lack of social relationships is a major issue for older L.G.B.T.Q members. Link to SAGE for various resources.

September is National Prevention Month! Make a difference in someone’s life; if you or another individual are feeling suicidal please call the hotline. 1-800-273-8255

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Guest blogger Brandon Garrick is a Masters of Social Work Candidate at NC State University

Brandon Garrick is my second cousin who I enjoy spending a lot if time with. He recently completed his Bachelor of Sociology at North Carolina State University, and has now entered their Master’s Program of Social Work. He worked full time at North Carolina’s Central Prison as a corrections officer while completing his bachelor’s degree, and has a deep concern about the many social issues facing our nation and the world. He will now be a regular guest blogger discussing these various issues.

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NOTE: The Sept 7-20, 2018 issue of qnotes, North Carolina’s bi-weekly LGBT paper, has several article about suicide and the LGBT community.

Part 2 of 3: The Diversity of Aging – Intersection with LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Diversity

Older gay couples

Again, this blog is loaded with many useful and interesting links which I hope you will explore! (Bolded underlined)

In Part 1 of this series (link) I provided a general introduction to the topic of aging and shared some personal experiences I recently had which inspired me to write this series of blogs. Now I will write parts 2 and 3 in conjunction with the two core areas of my consulting practice – part 2 in relation to LGBT diversity and part 3 in relation to career development.

I appreciate the work of SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) which provided many of the below points.
First, some general facts about the aging LGBT population:
1. It is increasing rapidly and with the shift in culture, more older LGBT people are “coming out.” Recent estimates suggest that there are over 1.5M LGBT people over 65 in the USA and that will double by the year 2030.
2. A higher percentage of LGBT elders face financial hardships due to job benefit and social security inequities, and fewer family members to help care for them.
3. LGBT elders deal with a significantly higher rate of mental and physical health disparities. 39% of LGBT elders have contemplated suicide and 53% feel isolated from others (over double the general population)
4. Many LGBT elderly people face discrimination and stigma in the lives for our country’s systems that support the aging.

Many of these issues are even amplified for the aging transgender population. Many of these issues arise from the fact that many of today’s aging services providers are ill-equipped to provide competent and nondiscriminatory services to address the unique needs to transgender elders, and some health issues remain from barriers faced to receiving quality health care earlier in their life spans.

However, I see some encouraging signs that there is much more focus now on the intersection of aging and LGBT, and this emphasis must continue to development. There are growing resources for LGBT elders and their allies through organizations such as:
SAGE (link)– Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders. They also have many local chapters associated with local LGBT Centers.
AARP (link) – An Ally for Real Possibilities. If you do a search on their website search engine on LGBT – you will find that they produce a large number of their resources for the LGBT constituency.
Other hopeful signs I have seen recently include:
• The Carol Woods Retirement Community here in my own state of North Carolina, is a welcoming progressive community which even placed an ad recently in The Front Page, North Carolina’s LGBT bi-weekly paper.
• There was a full page ad in a recent Gay and Lesbian Review (bi-monthly magazine) for Fountaingrove Lodge, a new retirement community in California exclusively for the LGBT retirement community.

Also, the US Supreme Court Decision we have all been waiting on regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) could have a huge impact on this discussion.

And I will close with a link to two more articles in the April 26 – May 9, 2013 issue of Qnotes – one titled “Focus on LGBT Aging Grows” and a second article focusing on the LGBT Senior Housing becoming a hot topic among advocates.

Look for part 3 about the link to career development and succession planning in July!