For some time now we have known about the higher risk of LGBT suicide which includes ideation and attempts (See stats here) but thoughts of and attempts to suicide are much higher for LGBT people from faith backgrounds.
I am glad to see now that research is demonstrating something I have been pointing out for many years. That is, that LGBTI people of faith and religion not only experience the usual issues of resolving their sexuality or gender identity, coming out, finding their place in the community and learning what it means to live authentically in a predominately straight world but they experience these things with greater intensity and also have additional issues to deal with. This makes them potentially one of the highest risk groups in our community.
The research project Writing Themselves In 3 (WTi3) 2010 interviewed 3,134 LGBTI young people aged 14-21.
When religion was mentioned the key findings were:
- More likely to feel bad about their same-sex-attraction.
- More likely to have experienced social exclusion or had to tolerate homophobic language from friends.
- More likely to report homophobic abuse in the home.
- More likely to report feeling unsafe at home.
- More likely to not be supported by their mother, father, brother, teacher or student welfare coordinator/counsellor, when disclosing their SSA.
- More likely to report thoughts of self-harm and suicide or to carry out self-harm.
I would like to summarise with this statement.
A review of 850 research papers concluded that people with religious involvement and belief system have better mental health outcomes. They have higher levels of psychological well-being such as life satisfaction, happiness, positive effect, and higher morale and less depression and suicide. If however you are gay or lesbian (in the closet or your sexuality/belief system unresolved)…….. it is the exact opposite….it can drive you crazy or kill you (suicide). Also it should be noted that this research has shown that the very places where Christian young people should feel safest (in their churches, Christian homes, schools and with friends) are actually places of harm.
But we will never actually know the toll of those who have suicided because of the struggle with the perceived conflict of their faith and sexuality or dealing with their ‘unwanted same sex attraction’.
The toll of lives lost can never be counted because:
- People leave or are thrown out of churches and people think the person has given into their ‘sin’ and therefore have to suffer the consequences. Then when they leave they have such a sense of failure and shame that they never speak to anyone about their experience.
- When some young person commits suicide there is no box the coroner can tick that says Reason for Death = tortured by the internal conflict of my faith and sexuality. Tried to change my sexual orientation by going through a program, lots of prayer, believing and counselling …..but failed.
- Some people have left notes for their family or friends about the reason they took their lives but they have never been made public. Especially if the parents are Christians. There is already trauma and shame around the suicide and they would never add to that the revelation that their son or daughter was gay. That would make it even worse.
- Often pastors and youth leaders know the reason why the person took their life as they had talked to them in counselling sessions. The pastors and youth leaders won’t talk about the reason once again because of additional shame and also fear of controversy.
- Sometimes people take their lives in ways that it is not obviously suicide…..it looks like an accident (eg head on collision, went off a road in the middle of the night, a drowning)
These tragedies have to cease. You can help make that happen by supporting the work of ABBI.