- September 28, 2017
Trigger Warning: This post discusses suicide.
This September, HRC marked National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month by reaffirming our commitment to support the wellbeing of LGBTQ youth and adults.
LGBTQ youth are disproportionately affected by suicide, with a 2016 study by the Center for Disease Control finding that 43 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual high school students had seriously considered suicide in the previous 12 months. This is compared to 15 percent of their heterosexual peers.
According to Zachary Mallory, an HRC Youth Ambassador and outspoken advocate for LGBTQ youth, one of the main factors contributing to this alarming statistic is the silence and stigma surrounding suicide and the LGBTQ community. By sharing their own experience with suicide, Mallory hopes to demystify the topic and encourage others to seek support.
“Shame is what causes more stigma around that topic,” Mallory says. “Especially in marginalized communities, and especially in LGBTQ communities.”
For Mallory, the inability to talk openly about their mental health as a Kansas City, Missouri, high school student contributed to their feelings of depression, fear and suicide. Added to the bullying and exclusion they suffered as an LGBTQ student, they felt pressured to hide who they were to avoid scrutiny.
This isolation only intensified Mallory’s depression, until, after their first suicide attempt, Mallory called their grandmother tearful and desperate at 4 a.m. They were at their breaking point.
“She was actually the person who saved my life,” says Mallory. By reaching out to their grandmother, Mallory was able to find the empathy and acceptance they needed to embrace their identity and speak openly about their experience with a suicide attempt.
This road to self-acceptance wasn’t easy. Mallory made three other suicide attempts, and still acknowledges they deal with daily feelings of depression and anxiety.
But, by speaking out and being honest with their teachers and fellow students, Mallory was able to find a network of LGBTQ youth and allies committed to making their school environment more welcoming and accepting.
Today, as a 21-year-old serving as an AmeriCorp Promise Fellow with at-risk youth in Minnesota, Mallory’s own experience pushes them to make sure their students never feel alone.
“You don’t want somebody else to go through that, so you’ve got to open your heart,” Mallory says, “and try and find a way to support them and be there for them.”
Mallory is committed to opening up the dialogue about suicide and depression, and acknowledging that -- though the LGBTQ community may be a demographic more affected by suicide -- the solution is not to remain silent about their struggles. Trusted family members, school peers and teachers can provide valuable support and counselling to any youth struggling with their mental health.
“Mental health and suicide is not just a gay thing. It’s a human thing,” Mallory says. They urge any one affected by depression and suicide “to talk with somebody that you trust.” And, for those who can, Mallory says that being an accepting and responsive supporter to anyone struggling with mental health may just save their life.
If you or someone you know may be at risk of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you’re a young person and need to talk to someone, call The Trevor Project’s 24-hour crisis hotline for youth at 1-866-488-7386. If you are a transgender person of any age, call the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860.
To learn more about supporting LGBTQ youth in their homes, schools and communities, visit www.hrc.org/youth