LDS LGBT Suicides On The Rise: Can the LDS Church do more?

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.

6 thoughts on “LDS LGBT Suicides On The Rise: Can the LDS Church do more?

  1. One is too many. However, I have not seen and independent verification of those numbers. I’d like to know the source the figure on the high numbers of LBGT suicides. If someone here can verify that, I’m interested. The reasons for suicides are very complex and just “pointing a finger at Temple Square” may not be the entire answer. If inaccurate numbers are being tossed about as a way to embarrass the Church, it is reprehensible and could be part of the problem. What are the reasons given behind the suicides? Has that been examined or are some just assuming it is a Church issue?

    I am anxious to see the issue addressed in a reasonable way. The days of a family or ward casting out a gay member needs to be far behind us. If there are things that need to be done in prevention they need to happen soon. As one who worked with youth for over 30 years, I am all too well acquainted with youth suicide and suicide attempts. It goes beyond tragic.

  2. I feel an overwhelming flood of empathy for the families and especially parents of the children who have been lost to suicide. I am a parent and know of the love and hope as well as the worry and fear that goes along with having children. My heart aches at the thought of losing one of my children and I share the sentiments of the Mama Dragons that we need to do more as individuals and institutions to prevent suicides and give suicidal individuals the help that they need. All life is precious and the world needs these individuals and their contributions. What I do not share, however, is the direct line that the Mama Dragons and other point to the church as the cause of suicide.

    To truly understand the problem we need to understand more about suicide. Here are a few facts:
    1. According to the CDC suicide is the 2nd or third leading cause of death amongst teens and young adults.
    2. According to speakforthem.org, an organization dedicated to preventing youth suicides, suicide is the leading cause of death for gay and lesbian youth and gay and lesbian youth are two to six times more likely to suicide then their heterosexual counterparts.
    3. According to the CDC there are 25 suicide attempts for each completed suicide.
    4. Adolescents are twice as likely to commit suicide if there is a gun in the home and firearms are the most common method of suicide across all ages, sexes and ethnic groups. (speakforthem.org)
    5. The leading cause of suicide is depression and depression affects 20-25% of people in the US every year. (CDC)
    6. 80% -90% of adolescents that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication. (TADS)
    (Note: Much public and private research is done on suicide prevention and much more information can be found from the CDC, speakforthem.org, save.org and many other organizations.)

    So, considering the facts above, it is clear that youth suicide in general is a huge problem and that problem gets bigger when we are speaking of GLBT youth and youth in homes with access to firearms. Suicide is also much more common in Rocky Mountain States. The reasons for this are not fully understood, but many people note the elevation and the availability of guns as contributing factors.

    The causes of suicide are many and oftentimes it is very difficult to pinpoint any single cause. Also, the Mama Dragons freely admit that while they attempt to gather statistics on LDS youth suicides is very difficult and not reliable (“There’s no way to get an accurate count of LGBT suicides in the Mormon community.” http://www.npr.org/2016/07/07/485058737/mama-dragons-try-to-prevent-suicides-among-mormon-lgbt-children). Even if the numbers were accurate, one must also remember that a correlation does not prove causation. Most often times the Mama Dragons uses anecdotes and inferences in an attempt to prove their case that the Mormon Church is somehow to blame. They feel that the Mormon Church should change its theology to match “current medical and mental health standards and practices” (http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/4064166-155/op-ed-lds-church-must-do-more) and that this will somehow magically lead to the prevention of GLBT suicides. It will not. GLBT suicides are a big problem regardless of LDS teachings and if the church were to completely change its views and accept homosexual activity and gay marriages, GLBT suicide would still be a big problem. There is no empirical evidence to show that LDS GLBT youth commit suicide in any greater numbers than GLBT youth in general. Furthermore, the LDS church has made great efforts to reach out to the GLBT community and show love and compassion. While the church walks a tight line between pointing out what it sees as sinful behavior and showing love to those who choose differently to say the LDS church has “blood on its hands” is unfair at best (see the SLTrib op-ed referenced above). Furthermore, any attempt to falsely scapegoat the LDS Church leads to an environment of helplessness. There is a sense of resignation that comes when we think, “well, the church hasn’t changed its stance and so my hands are tied and there is nothing that I can do to prevent youth suicides.” That is not at all true.

    Here is my proposal to combat the youth and GLBT suicide epidemic from an LDS perspective. All LDS church members should strive to be more loving, more caring and more accepting of others and their differences, especially LGBT youth. Members of the church should show kindness, caring and loving concern and be less judgmental and exclusionary. In other words, LDS members should follow the counsel of LDS leaders in that regard. Additionally, each and every member of the LDS church, but especially Bishops and youth leaders, should be familiar with the warning signs of depression and suicide and have the courage to step in when issues appear. Parents should be aware and vigilant and get their children the professional help that they need and limit the access of adolescents to firearms even going so far as removing them from the home completely if necessary. If we know of individuals who have attempted or did as the result of suicide we should be compassionate on them and their families and mourn with them and comfort them. In other words, we should follow Christ’s example and fulfil the covenants made at baptism.

    In the fifth Sunday meeting in my ward last week, the Bishop invited a local health care professional to come and talk to the youth and adults in the ward. The topic was on depression and had a lot of themes taken from Elder Holland’s general conference talk on the subject along with links to local professional resources for those who may need help and assistance. These are the kinds of things that we should see more often. The church should be seen as a partner and not as a culprit.

    All life is precious and we should do all we can to show love for others and prevent suicides. Blaming the church, however, is not warranted, nor is it productive. We are all on the same side in this fight.

  3. Rejection by family/friends does play a role in suicide rates of LGBT people.

    “Higher rates of family rejection were significantly associated with poorer health outcomes. On the basis of odds ratios, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times mor e likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times mor e likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection. Latino me n reported the highest number of negative family reactions to their sexual orientation in adolescence”

    http://www.progettorlando.unina.it/public/Family%20rejection%20prediction.pdf

    Religion is getting families to shame eachother to death. What a loving god.

  4. I wouldn’t put too much trust in the lgbt center and club on campus. They had my friend expelled for being who she is. This lead to a suicide attempt. She almost became a statistic because of them.

    They don’t want to be discriminated against. They discriminated against her.
    They don’t want to be rejected. They rejected her.
    They don’t want to fear for their safety. She feels unsafe.
    They want to reach out and be heard. UVU punished her for reaching out for help. Censorship?

    They’re a hypocritical group of people who do what they can to hurt and oppress those with disability.

    They destroyed her future. She’s too depressed to leave the house. She’s unable to find a job without her degree. She’s in poverty and can’t afford to go anywhere else. They essentially already killed her.

  5. 1. These numbers are highly questionable.
    2. Suicide rates for LDS-LGBT youth appear to be lower than for non-LDS-LGBT youth. In other words, LGBT youth IN the church do much better than outside the church.
    3. Research appears to indicate that the “LGBT” in LDS-LGBT appears to be the main contributing factor to suicide – not the “LDS.” It’s time to stop blaming the church.

    In short, Mama Dragons is way off. Their numbers are off. Their research is flawed. And their hit pieces are getting old.

  6. First, I am not Mormon. Secondly, any evidence that any Mormon doctrine or practice is contributing to teen Mormon suicide should be admitted and addressed immediately. However, I believe that what is really at stake is simply full frontal attack of retribution by the MSM as an ally to the LGBT political movement for the Mormons opposition to gay “marriage”.

    They have latched on to a loosely coincidental set of data that they think they can use to make people, particularly confused Mormons, become angry at their church. This data is NOT scientific proof any ANYTHING! Its almost as bad as saying that since a fat lady sneezed the day before a tornadoes, therefore tornadoes are cause by fat lady sneezes!

    In the case of this actual data set, Im not saying that it could not be the clues to an actual relationship between Mormon practice or the behaviors of Mormons due to church practice and teen suicide. But as the data stands, to make the assertions that has been in the MSM is nothing other than a witch hunt! And I believe it is simply the Gay Lobby’s revenge for Mormon opposition to gay “marriage”.

    I am not a fan of Mormonism’s theology! I would be happy if every Mormon converted to another sect of Christianity, namely my own. But I do respect the people in the Mormon church and have long admired them as good, kind, loving and family oriented model citizens I am proud to have as neighbors. Therefore, I hate the type of deceit and revenge that is common in the rhetoric and political exploits of the gay “lobby” and its time to put an end to it!

    Do NOT let this rhetoric and these deceitful attacks go unchallenged! This is an utter outrage that the MSM has become nothing other than the whore-mouthpiece of every progressive movement and has completely failed in its duty to be objective and scientifically rigorous! Make the MSM do its job!

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