Over the course of one week in late June, five LGBT youth committed suicide. Four of them were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This number seems shocking but pales in comparison to the larger picture. The Mama Dragons, a group of LDS mothers who have made it their mission to advocate for their LGBT+ children, report that since the LDS Church made a policy change regarding gay members back in November, at least 36 LDS LGBT youth have taken their own lives.
These numbers have contributed to the ever-increasing rate of suicide found in the Beehive State. The Salt Lake Tribune has reported that the rate of suicide among 10-17 year olds has tripled since 2007. The rate in 2014 was 8.5 per 100,000. In 2007 it was only 3 in every 100,000.
Theories abound about what the cause could be. Some theories claim Utah residents move more often, which damages social connections, while others claim it’s the higher altitude. With the recent loss of more gay and lesbian Mormon kids, some are pointing the finger at Temple Square.
In a public Facebook post on her own page, Lori Embree, Mama Dragon and BYU-Idaho Professor stated, “Regardless of what the church teaches, the messages being sent and received are being perceived differently by the LGBT+ community. LGBT+ Mormon kids are caught in the crosshairs, and it is showing in the research and data being collected.”
Tyler Glenn, lead singer of Neon Trees and former Mormon released a video commenting on the suicides where he called on the leaders of the LDS Church to act. “Please don’t let this be a summer of more gay suicides.” He continued, “Please make a space for your gay members…Please, please, please, how many more? How many more?”
Utah Valley University has not escaped the touch of these tragedies. One of the dead was the nephew of a ranking member of UVU’s executive leadership team.
While these statistics and stories may seem overwhelming to many, the UVU community is well placed to survive. UVU has a thriving culture of inclusivity and diversity. There is an LGBT+ service office located in the Liberal Arts Building, as well as the Spectrum Club, which supports LGBT+ students and their allies.
As Utah reels from these deaths, UVU can rest assured that they have the culture and resources to support any student facing issues relating to their sexuality, faith, and mental health.
LGBT Student Services can be found in LA 126. The Student Health Center provides counseling in SC 221. If you or a loved one are facing suicidal thoughts, go immediately to the student health center. Suicide prevention counselors are available to help.