World Suicide Prevention Day: Be A Better LGBTQ Ally

Today, September 10, we mark World Suicide Prevention Day 2015. Around the world, new legislation and funding to combat suicide is being put in place. NBC New York mentioned that President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act earlier this year, while CTV News reports that the Ontario, Canada government is marking the day by announcing $1.9-million CDN in funding for a youth suicide prevention program.

In case you missed it, the World Suicide Prevention Day is sponsored by the IASP and the WHO and is aimed at addressing the (likely significantly) over 800,000 who die by suicide every year, and countless more who make the attempt.

What I’d like to talk about today, as a member of the LGBTQ (lesbian/gay/bisexual/trans/queer) community, is the disproportionately high suicide rates among LGBTQ people, particularly LGBTQ youth, and what we can all do better to help address this. Transgender youth are particularly at risk, Vocativ notes. While 4.6 percent of the American public have self-reported a suicide attempt, 41 percent of transgender or non-gender-conforming people surveyed self-reported having attempted suicide.

I’m not writing this to raise awareness, though. There are plenty of good people already doing that on today’s World Suicide Prevention Day.

This is about the fact that being aware isn’t enough. LGBTQ rights and respect are easy things to pay lip service to. A lot of people who consider themselves supportive of LGBTQ people aren’t actually very good allies.

So here is what you can do, in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day, to actually address LGBTQ suicide rates yourself. It’s not that hard.

First, check yourself. Educate yourself. Understand what gaslighting isEveryday Feminism has a very good explanation if you’re unsure. Go into LGBTQ spaces, online and offline, with respect, and try to do more listening than talking. Many cishet (cisgender, heterosexual) folks are honestly surprised when their opinions and their narrative are unwelcome, so try not to be one of those people who enters an LGBTQ discussion framing every comment you make on “how most of society sees things.” Your perspective may not be welcome; try to put your own position aside and see things from their end.

More importantly, call out these behaviors when you see them. Call out inappropriate language. Call out gaslighting. Whether it be from strangers, friends, or family, speak up when you see abusive, harmful, or inappropriate behaviors. You have the power to make a difference. Whenever someone changes their mind, their attitude, their behavior, it is almost always because of someone close to them.

I don’t have the power to change the behavior of random strangers. You do because some of them aren’t strangers to you. They’re your friends. They’re your family. They’re your coworkers. In many cases, they are you.

On today’s World Suicide Prevention Day, please take a moment to consider how you can be a better ally to LGBTQ people. Take a moment to assess your behavior. Take a moment to look at what others are saying. And please, please speak up and correct those who need correction.

You can make a difference. You can prevent suicides. You can save lives. We need your help.

[Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images]