Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, so I’m going to talk about it a little bit, as I do every year. But first: If you are feeling like you might hurt yourself, or just want to talk, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. (Want an LGBTQ+ youth specialist? Call the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386, or follow that link to chat.)
Have you ever felt suicidal? I have. I even came very close to doing it once or twice. Thankfully and obviously, I did not.
It’s something I live with, though. Like jaw pain from grinding my teeth, it pops up during periods of high stress, and floats, in a low-grade way, in the back of my mind. But it is managed, with therapy, medication, and lifestyle choices.
Some of the management takes the form of morbid self-talk. People really hate it when I narrate this, but here goes:
Me: “Bullshit problem x is intractable and you should just kill yourself.”
Also me: “Well, how about we finish writing these tests, and then we can kill ourselves over bullshit problem x.”
Me: “…You finished the tests, and bullshit problem x is still…”
Also me: “Look, if I don’t finish writing this story, nobody’s ever going to read it. I can kill myself after that, okay? Great.”
Me: “…The story is out to readers now. It’s late at night and you’re alone. This would be a great time to kill–”
Also me: “Nope, can’t, somebody is wrong on the internet. Let’s pick this back up when that stops.”
Not today, satan, as they say. Don’t get me wrong: My life isn’t entirely, or even mostly, a mad scramble away from such thoughts. It’s just one tool in my toolbox for when things get especially hairy.
But enough about me. Today I would like to talk about my friend SP. We met when I was thirteen, and starting high school a touch early. I didn’t know anybody. SP was fifteen, probably, a sophomore. She was great, one of my first new friends in that new part of town. Always happy to show you around, lend a hand as needed, or listen to your dumb problems. Sort of the school mascot for the weird kids.
SP was bi, though I sorta figured she was probably totally gay. She was the first queer person I knew who didn’t have HIV, no joke. It seemed like her hair was always a different color. She wore Doc Martens and these ridiculous military surplus outfits, that bright red camo stuff. I remember she used to joke it was in case she needed to blend in with a pile of flaming moose. Her family was also a bunch of religious fundamentalists, including her parents, so that was fun for her.
I remember the phone call my parents got when she died. I picked up the phone and somebody I didn’t recognize asked for my parents. I assumed a telemarketer and said they weren’t there. Then she said she worked for the school and started to cry. I got my mom. A few minutes later, my mom sat me down on the white leather couch in the living room, and I started to learn a very confusing lesson about life.
SP’s family was so ashamed of her, they didn’t even have a memorial service.
Here are some facts about LGB people under twenty-five.
- They are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth.
- Their attempts are five times as likely to require medical intervention.
- If their families reject them, they are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as their LGB peers with low levels of rejection–peers who are already many times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals.
We don’t have great statistics on trans* youth, but here’s one we do know: 40% of transgender adults report having made a suicide attempt; of that group, 92% did it before the age of twenty-five.
These statistics are via The Trevor Project, a suicide-prevention nonprofit for LGBT youth. It is a very important organization to me. At my wedding, I requested donations to them in lieu of gifts. Perhaps you would like to donate something today too.
Thank you for reading.