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With suicide attempt rates up for LGBTQ+ teens, experts explain how to be an ally

Posted: 8:06 PM, Jun 11, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-11 23:57:36-04
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LANSING, Mich. — Suicide attempt rates for young people are already high, but there is a group of people who are even more at-risk.

LGBTQ+ teens are five times more likely to try and kill or harm themselves than their straight peers.

Fox 47 sat down with experts to find out why and how to be an ally.

"I think the primary factor there is not being LGBTQ...it's being socially isolated," Morgan Doherty said. Doherty is a True LGBTQ Group Facilitator.

That isolation can come in the form of rejection, discrimination or both. Trauma can stem from these negative experiences, making kids who identify as LGBTQ+ feel even more alone.

"Youth who are coming out as queer or trans, the most important thing is for them to feel like they have a community. Unlike a lot of other marginalized groups, they don't have a family to necessarily turn to, to understand what they are going through or how to address those struggles," Doherty said.

Feeling isolated can start at home. In fact, teens who do not have the support of their family members are eight times more likely to attempt suicide, so it can be the difference between life and death.

"If you as a parent can be that safe base for your child, and it's important to know that it needs to be explicit about it because we live in a world and society are explicitly hateful and bigoted toward our LGBTQ youth, as a parent, it needs to be really explicit," Mercuri Rose said. Rose is an intern at the Salus Center working towards a Master's degree in social work.

Parents can do that by hanging a flag for their child, going to pride, using correct pronouns, or just talking positively about someone who is LGBTQ+ to show their acceptance. But what if, still, parents don't want to accept their kids' identity? Youth can turn to an organization like the Salus Center.

"Salus literally means wholeness and well-being. I feel like I repeat that over and over. For someone to be able to know that there are here and it is great regardless of what some of these cultural narratives are convincing us otherwise," Director at Salus Center Phiwa Langeni said.

Regardless of how a young person identifies, experts say what's also important is that even if you feel like you're alone, there are people that will accept you for you.

"You can live the life that you want to live. Not just that it gets better, that you make it better. The life that you want is possible and you can find a community and there are people who are like you and will love you," Doherty added.

True LGBTQ meets every Tuesday at the Salus Center. For more information about the Salus Center resources, click here.

For more information about True LGBTQ, click here.

If you or someone you know is in distress, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7 to provide free and confidential support. Call 1-800-273-8255. You can also text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

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