What if we knew that every year, almost one half of the Enid High football team would contract a serious life-threatening illness, and that half of them would actually have a near-death experience from this illness? What if this illness was the third leading cause of death among people ages 15-24? What if the teachers, coaches, and parents didn’t know the symptoms of the illness, so the kids were near death, or dead before anyone knew they were even sick? What if there was other medical help out there that understood this exact illness, but almost nobody knew about it, so these football players were never told where to get medical help?

HELPWhat if through statistics, we could predict with near certainty that all the red-heads at Enid High were four times more likely to die of alcohol poisoning, than their peers with brown, blonde, or black hair? What if we knew that 80% of the left-handed kids at Enid High were bullied and even harmed physically at school to the point that fearing for their own safety regularly led to them skipping school? What if we knew that the left-handed kids at Enid High who grew up in families that insisted they be right-handed were eight times more likely to chop their own left hand off with a table saw and bleed to death in the process?

If we knew these scenarios and statistics were a reality, but nothing was being done about it, our community would be up in arms about these issues, and would demand an immediate solution. Enid would be having bake sales, car washes, and town hall meetings, to connect our football players with the right medical help, to make sure those red-heads were reached out to about the dangers of alcohol poisoning, and to insure that we advocated for those left-handed kids so they felt safe at school and didn’t end up dead from family rejection. You’re probably thinking, “of course our community would jump into action to prevent the untimely death of these young people.” But, the question is, “Would we really?” The above scenarios may seem unrealistic or extreme, but the statistics are real when it comes to our young people being at risk of death. The only difference is we’re not talking about an illness, or football players, or left-handed kids.

We’re talking about suicide in our young people, and the most frightening statistics are among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth (LGBTQ). Their rates of suicide risk and completion are staggeringly high because of things like, lack of support, fear of losing everything, constant verbal and physical attacks, and lack of understanding from the adults in their life. Here are a few statistics to open your eyes.

  • LGB youth are four times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers (2011 CDC)
    • LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are up to 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide than LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection (2009, Family Acceptance Project.)
    • Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt (2007, The American Association of Suicidology.)
      • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 24 and accounts for 12.2% of the deaths every year in that age group (2010 CDC).
  • Youth who are threatened with physical violence by their peers were 2.4 times more likely to report suicidal thoughts and 3.3 times more likely to report suicidal behavior than non-victimized youth (2009, Journal of Pediatrics.)

Now that you know, are you prepared to know what to do with the highest risk kids? Do you understand the very real odds working against LGBTQ youth? Would you recognize the signals that a young person is engaging in thoughts of suicide? Would you know the best place or person to reach out to in order to save that young person’s life? Anyone who works with youth should be able to confidently answer those questions with a solid “yes.” Learning about The Trevor Project and Lifeguard Workshop will enable you to do just that. If you’re thinking “well, I work with youth, but none of them are gay” think again. Most youth in our geographic area are simply not out of the closet out of fear of rejection. That fear can kill, because their pain is just as real, but their chances of not trusting anyone one enough to ask for help is much greater. But, what if they knew that you can and will help them, that you care, and that you won’t force them to come out of the closet in order to get help?

Pat Ward, RN, BS, will present “The Trevor Project and Lifeguard Workshop” at the  Enid LGBT Coalition forum on Saturday, November 10th at 3:00 p.m. in the YWCA (525 S. Quincy) conference room. The information she shares will be invaluable in the fight against all teen suicide. Every young person’s life is worth saving, every young person should have access to adults who can help them, and every adult who advocates for or works with youth should be given the tools they need to help save lives.

This forum is open to the public, and everyone is welcome. Those who do work with youth directly, either by profession or volunteer service, are encouraged to bring business cards or contact information to share with others. This is because connecting, and building an up-to-date network of support, with each other helps to prevent any youth, gay or straight, from falling through the cracks.

Hope to see you there!

Kristi Balden

Contact information: Enid LGBT Coalition www.enidlgbtcoalition.org lgbtcoalition@yahoo.com 1-800-878-5298

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