Health & Fitness

Accepting LGBT family members helps reduce risk of suicide

In June we recognize Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, honoring the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, a tipping point for the gay liberation movement in the United States. We have come a long way since then with acceptance in the community, participation, visibility and being able to exercise basic constitutional rights, especially in South Florida. However, issues still linger that can impact LGBT behavioral health.

As reported recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the leading causes of death among young people — straight or LGBT — is suicide. Among this group, LGBT youth are four times more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide. Suicide is even more common if someone comes from a family that rejects them, as suicide attempts are much less prominent in LGBT youth who belong to accepting families.

Although acceptance is not the only reason suicide attempts are higher in this population, it helps highlight how important acceptance and understanding is in preventing such a devastating event. We can take steps to help reduce this rate, starting with recognizing and accepting different sexual preferences and gender identities for what they are — something normal.

As a psychiatrist working with the LGBT community, I recognize that even though there have been great advances in this area, there is still much work to do to ensure the mental well-being of those who are LGBT. Every person should be able to love who they want and simply be who they are. This creates a healthier life.

The use of the word “pride” has deep meaning. It evokes a positive stance against discrimination and violence, as opposed to shame or stigma that often lead to depression and other behavioral health issues. As multiple events are held throughout South Florida this month to commemorate those members of the LGBT community who were lost to hate crimes, suicide or HIV/AIDS, now is the time for our community to further secure its place in local, national and international history with our continued support of those who are LGBT.

Samir Sabbag, M.D., is a psychiatrist at UHealth – the University of Miami Health System. To learn more, visit umiamihospital.com/specialties/psychiatry.

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