In the wake of the spate of suicides by LGBT youth, we have seen the media and celebrities both focusing on the supposed "fact" that these deaths were caused by bullying of gay youth and homophobia in general.
While there is certainly no place for the bullying of anyone regardless of race, color, creed, sex or sexual orientation acceptable in our society, and we are right to be outraged that it is a common occurrence, the simple truth is that bullying did not cause these deaths.
These deaths, like the thousands of suicides and attempted suicides that occurred on the very same days worldwide, were caused by ignorance, shame, apathy, stigma and a lack of infrastructure in our society to deal with mental illness.
According to the National Institute of Mental Heath (NIMH), "In 2007 (the latest year accurate statistics are available), suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24."
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) reports figures compiled by the World Health Organization show that, "Each year approximately one million people in the world die by suicide. This toll is higher than the total number of world deaths each year from war and homicide combined." The leading reporting agencies also estimate that there are 10-20 suicide attempts for every suicide completion.
Suicide is not a normal response to stress. It is often said that persons with severe mental illness will seek severe solutions. Suicide is most certainly a severe and abnormal solution to any problem. AFSP reports that "95% of college students who commit suicide suffer from mental illness, most commonly Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). . . . Read the rest of this entry →