We Need to Talk About Suicide Prevention in The Queer Community

TW: Suicide

Mental health is a huge topic of conversation in the world at the moment, but it’s particularly important for bi people. We suffer higher rates of ill mental health and higher suicide rates than any other sexual orientation: In a 2020 study, bi people were found to be 6 times more likely to self-harm compared to other sexualities.

Add gender to the equation and over half of the trans and non-binary US population reported that they had considered taking their own lives, while a Stonewall study also found that one in eight queer people aged 18-24 had attempted to end their lives. Here in the UK, the figures are no less shocking. One in two queer individuals reported self-harm and 44% of the cohort surveyed had considered suicide.

One in two.

One in eight.

The statistics surrounding suicide ideation in the queer sphere are staggering, and they concern all of us. These aren’t just numbers. These are real humans who feel like the only feasible options are to harm themselves or cut their lives short. 

For a time, I was one of these humans.
I battled with gender dysphoria throughout my early twenties, and found myself in the darkest corners of depression in the process. The online representation of gender was so kaleidoscopic and wild, but it was a far cry from the black-and-white, binary town that I inhabited. This cognitive dissonance left me feeling faulty and downright alone.

Prior attempts to ‘put myself out there’ meant I was all-too-aware I would be othered by people whose opinions mattered to me (at the time), and my self-esteem was too fragile to stand for it. So, I put a pin in it.

I chalked my dysphoria down to existential boredom and put on my cis mask.

I wore it so well that I lost my sense of self entirely. To express my gender identity was to bare my soul. So sacrificing this came at a heavy cost. Within a year of ignoring my identity, I was signed off of work with clinical depression.

Photo by Shane on Unsplash

It was during my time off work that the suicide ideation began.

I was home alone and frightened by the way these thoughts kind of… snuck up on me.

It began as a feeling of unpredictable sadness and evolved into an insidious hopelessness over the course of a few days. It was as though, by taking a break, the flood gates had opened. I couldn’t undo the spiral.

I was in mourning for my former self, the plucky person my boss would describe as “a ray of sunshine”. I blamed myself for letting that (rose-tinted-glasses) version of me slip through my fingers, which only worsened my state of mind. In the thick fog of depression, there was no room for big picture sentiments like “this too shall pass,”’ though this would ultimately turn out to be true. 

But what I found odd about my experience was that it felt as though only half of my brain was on this trajectory. I guess I was fortunate in that respect, because the other half of my brain – the chunk of it that wanted to live – won out.

Despite feeling hopeless, I had a desperate urge to talk to someone. One morning, I was crying in the back garden, despairing that I could see the beautiful wildlife, but couldn’t feel its positive effects. I was becoming increasingly distressed by this, believing that if I stayed on my own much longer, I would give up on myself entirely. In that moment, a rush of fear-induced adrenaline spurred me to grab my phone and call a mental health charity helpline. 

I was bawling my eyes out and (unnecessarily) embarrassed that it had “all come to this”. Realising what I had just done, I felt the sharp pang of stigma, believing that if I could have just “tried a bit harder” to deal with my moods by myself, I could have been at my usual team meeting right now, drinking my enormous coffee and pretending I had adulthood all figured out, just like the old days.

No, as if the depression itself wasn’t enough, I’d decided to double-down on my low self-esteem and berated myself for needing help. 

“Well, it’s a testament to your inner strength that you talked to us,”
the voice on the other end of the phone responded,

“it says to me that you’re not done yet.”

And they were right. I wasn’t done, and I’m still not done. 3 years later, I still live with depression, sure. It ebbs and it flows. Those words, though, from a conversation with a complete stranger, a call that lasted no more than 5 minutes, kept me going and will continue to do so.

But let’s be real here. That was a near miss. I’m still here thanks to a chance glimmer of hope and a powerful conversation. Others might not be so lucky. 

With the stats to hand, we can’t just sit back and let it fall to the individual to decide whether or not their life is worth living, to rely on a chance passing thought – a glimmer of hope.

I believe there are things all of us – whatever our position – can do to tackle the root of the issue before it reaches crisis point. We need to get to the heart of the issues that result in suicide rates being higher in bi people, the issues that cause so many queer individuals to live with suicidal thoughts. And one of the ways we can all start doing that is through conversation: we need to talk about this stuff. And keep talking.

Granted, talking can be daunting. It can be awkward and unpredictable sometimes, especially when the topic is burdened by stigma. But if interacting with another human saved me from spiralling further, it stands to reason it could make a difference to other members of the queer community too.  

By discussing suicide prevention, we can normalise the expression of all emotions and put an end to the stigma of mental ill health.

In turn, it could reduce the likelihood of isolation and the challenges that come with that. Even if you don’t want to talk, there are opportunities to listen instead. There are a plethora of online content creators and communities in the queer sphere who would love to have their voices heard.

By immersing ourselves in queer conversations, arts, culture, studies, influences, and thought, we can celebrate queer identity and get bloody inspired while we’re at it. 

Photo by Shingi Rice on Unsplash

When all’s said and done, a 5-minute phone call changed my outlook on life. Sure, the voice on the other end was trained in supporting those in crisis. Not all of us are well-versed in such tricky topics. But, heck, even just asking how someone is really doing could well be enough to make them feel truly heard. And our queer community needs to be heard.

World Suicide Prevention Day isn’t just a day. It’s a significant conversation starter, and a reminder of the reality that not enough conversations have been had, with much of our queer, population unspoken for.

So, for the one in two, the one in eight, the ones who aren’t accounted for, the kaleidoscopic and wild ones of this world, we need to keep the conversation going. 

Here are some resources if you need support,
whether for yourself or for someone you know:

  • Samaritans
    116 123 or jo@samaritans.org – available 24/7
  • Shout (free mental health text support) –
    text 85258 – available 24/7
  • Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS)
    0300 111 5065 or email.support@uksobs.org – 9am-9pm  everyday
  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)
    0800 58 58 58 – 5pm-midnight everyday
  • Papyrus (for people under 35)
    08000 68 41 41 – 9am-midnight
  • Mind Infoline – 0300 123 33 93 –
    9am-6pm Monday-Friday excluding bank Holidays
  • LGBT Foundation (advice helpline) – 03453 30 30 30
    9am-9pm Monday-Friday excluding bank holidays and religious festivals
  • MindOut, LGBTQ+ Mental Health Service
  • Queer Futures, UK-based study and resource for 16-25 year olds seeking mental health support
  • Pink Therapy (find a therapist)

Written by Beck Lowe

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