Suicide prevention: challenging but not hopeless
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 00:09
The Rainbow Center’s Out to Lunch Series continued on Wednesday when Michele Vezina, a psychotherapist from West Hartford, came to speak about assessment and care for LGBT individuals at risk for suicide. Vezina is a licensed alcohol and drug counselor as well as a licensed professional counselor. She has worked in the mental health field for over 25 years and her expertise lies within the fields of suicide risk assessment and treatment for healthcare professionals who are in recovery for addiction.
Vezina’s lecture began with the presentation of some unfortunate yet staggering statistics related to suicide. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States, and the second leading cause of death amongst American college students. Vezina also reported that one out of every 12 college students. drafts a suicide plan. The numbers are saddening and astonishing but at the same time do not even compare to the suicide statistics amongst members of the LGBT population. For every 100,000 transgender individuals, 800 commit suicide, whereas amongst the general population the number is considerably smaller at 11.5 per 100,000 individuals. It has also been reported that gay men complete suicide eight times as often as straight men and four times as often as men who never marry. As for lesbian women, the discrepancy is not as extreme but lesbian women complete do attempt suicide more often than straight women.
The critical questions are in finding the origin that accounts for the vast discrepancy of high suicide rates amongst members of the LGBT population (as compared to the general population) and discovering how we can effectively help handle suicide by making use of the resources around us.
Vezina classified suicide as a “multifactorial” problem. A multifactorial problem is one that comes about due to a variety of factors. Strictly speaking, people do are not born with an inherently higher susceptibility to committing suicide. Having said this, the family and environment that one is born into highly influences one’s odds of potentially contemplating or attempting suicide. Influential factors include stress from family, friends, substance abuse, alcoholism, (within the family and/or environment) geography, schooling, the level of surrounding psychosocial support as well as many other psychological and sociological influences.
As a psychotherapist, Vezina made it clear to her audience that despite her ability to treat individuals to distance themselves from the prospect of suicide, she is essentially powerless in terms of making the final decision. Ultimately, people will act how they want, even if their actions are predicated upon irrational logic and reasoning. This doesn’t mean that suicide prevention is a lost cause, and in fact, Vezina emphasized that talking about suicide does not compel the individual any more so.
At the heart of the matter, suicide is often a product of impulse. Substance abuse can often lead to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other medical conditions that affect an individual’s mental health. In such a volatile mental state, careful treatment is imperative in avoiding the consequences of inadvertent, unintentional mistakes.
To conclude her lecture, Vezina talked about patients she has interacted with. Although many suicides are hinted at beforehand and can be foreseen, erratic behavior is characteristic of suicidal patients and should not be neglected. Dismissing an individual’s case because it seems unlikely to amount to anything serious is only asking to be shocked by the reality that the future could hold. Even if the concept of suicide does not seem pertinent to you, it can never hurt to keep an eye out to keep our campus safe and our students feeling cared for and secure.