Why are suicide cases so common among gay and bisexual men?

Suicide among gay men is increasingly becoming a ticking time bomb under our noses.

Health Mental Health Brian Webb

This article was published on October 19th, 2021

Suicide is a major public health concern in the United States. It has increasingly become a growing crisis, with suicide rates escalating over the past two decades. 

According to a 2019 CDC report, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death, claiming over 47,000 lives, equating to about one death every 11 minutes.

For gay and bisexual men, the situation is far much worse. They face a higher elevated risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours than their heterosexual peers. Statistics show that gay men under the age of 25 were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their straight counterparts.

Older gay men (65 years and above) are at an even higher risk of contemplating suicide than straight men seeing that they endure a long period of stigmatization. 

With the statistics and findings looking very grim, the question everyone should be asking is: 

“Why are many gay men dying from suicide, and are there ways of addressing this ticking time bomb?”

Suicide risk factors

The risk factors associated with suicidal behaviour among gay people are varied. They experience social rejection, isolation, violence and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Such factors stem from the additional stress (minority stress) experienced by these marginalized groups.

The feelings of isolation tend to magnify and more so during one’s adolescence spell. More often than not, those who come out to family or friends end up being confronted with homophobia and stigmatization. This often leads to a feeling of helplessness, depression and suicide ideation. 

For some men, the idea of taking one’s life goes beyond experiencing homophobia from society. Financial problems, losing a job, or even an abusive relationship could trigger suicidal thoughts.     

A 2019 report examining suicides of gay males and lesbians found that gay men were likelier to have had a particular mental health condition before suicide. They could also have had a history of suicidal thoughts, an argument or a crisis before death.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, also sought to determine the mechanisms of injury for gay and straight people before committing suicide. Gay men were more likely to take their own lives through “hanging/strangulation/suffocation”. In contrast, straight people were likely to use firearms (men) and poison (women). 

Coping with suicidal thoughts 

Amidst all the suicidal ideation and attempts, there is always hope. The cultural attitude towards the gay community is slowly adopting an accepting stance. This can only point towards improved mental health, greater self-acceptance, and enhanced well-being among gay people. 

Here are various ways of dealing with suicidal thoughts:

Break the silence

Speak up and break the silence about suicide. Unfortunately, most people think that sharing suicidal feelings with those we love will worsen the situation further. Keeping the thoughts to yourself will only perpetuate the stigma and take you down that suicidal path. Communicate often with family or a close friend to help cope and overcome the pain.

Seek counselling services

If speaking to a friend or family member looks too hard a task, you can talk to a therapist. However, choose a knowledgeable and affirming counsellor who will not intimidate you based on your sexual orientation. Ask a few questions to assess the counsellor before committing to therapy.

Join supportive LGBTQ support networks

There are tons of LGBTQ support groups or organizations that offer information and resources to people at risk for suicide and other mental health struggles. Some even offer 24/7 crisis support services to help keep you safe when the situation gets out of hand. Make an effort to join any of these organizations in your community. 

Conclusion

Suicide is never the answer. Remember, a suicide crisis is usually temporary and not a permanent condition. Therefore, feelings can change, and a solution can be found. Talk to someone; you will feel better again.

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