Suicide prevention lecture covers greater suicide risk among LGBT youth

Psychologist Dr. Richard Stillson speaks during his lecture at UConn's Rainbow Center in the Student Union on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. (Allen Lang/The Daily Campus)

Suicide in the LGBTQ community was the subject of a lecture hosted by Psychologist Dr. Richard Stillson on Thursday afternoon as part of National Suicide Prevention Week.

The event was well attended and interactive, with many students and faculty answering questions and expressing experience on the issue.

“LGBTQ plus are more at risk for suicidal ideation and attempts,” said Matthew Candelaria, a seventh semester senior majoring in cognitive science.

The lecture examined and defined terminology such as suicide, death, attempted suicide, suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior via a handout from Dr. Stillson.

According to the handout, suicidal death is defined as “death from injury, poisoning, or suffocation where there is evidence that a self-inflicted was intentional and led to the person’s death.”

Attempted suicide was defined to speak for itself, however the definitions of suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior are broader.

Suicidal ideation was defined as “thoughts and expressed thoughts of engaging in suicide-related behavior.” 

Suicidal behavior is defined as “a spectrum of activities related to thoughts and behaviors that include suicidal thinking, suicide attempts and death by suicide.”

The purpose and acknowledgement of these definitions played a very important role as the data that was presented was extrapolated from these terms and their meaning.  The lack of understanding, Stillson said, is a large part of the problem.

“It’s important that people know just how high the numbers are and to take action against them,” said Lia Triantafylidias, a seventh semester human development and family studies major.

Hospital records contain no information on sexual orientation or gender identity.  This is a problem because if someone is transgender, discrepancies with data make it truly unknown how many transgendered individuals commit suicide.  Additionally, respondents do not identify with terms on vital paperwork.

According to Dr. Stillson’s presentation, which had respective data for lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals as well as Transgendered individuals, LGB youths are up to three times more likely to report suicidal ideation than non-LGB youth.

Additionally, 47.3 percent of gay or bisexual adolescent boys will express suicidal ideation versus 34.7 percent of non-gay or bisexual boys over the course of a lifetime. Even those numbers pale in comparison to the 72.9 percent of lesbian or bisexual adolescent girls who express suicidal ideation versus 53 percent of non-lesbian or bisexual girls over the course of a lifetime.

“It’s an issue that is real and awareness about it needs to be spread,” said one student who did not want to be named. 

All of the information and statistics contributed to the main purpose of the event, which was to help students understand the issue and then share strategies in a group setting to help those in distress as well as how to identify someone in distress.

If anyone sees someone in distress on campus, they are encouraged to speak with a member of the Counseling and Mental Health services staff and may call 860-486-4705. The 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255)


Matthew Gilbert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.gilbert@uconn.edu.