In July 2023, I submitted my dissertation at Leeds Beckett University for my BSc (Hons) in Therapeutic Counselling, in which my research question was ‘Why is There a Huge Suicide Rate in Young Gay Men in Their 20s and 30s?’ Not only did I research and critically analyse some of the personal challenges linked to sexuality, but I also got the opportunity to give something back to the LGBTQIA+ community in aid of friends and acquaintances who sadly lost their lives too soon.
I’ve decided to share some of the contents of my dissertation as a blog for my webpage in the hope of being able to shed some light on what is sometimes perceived as a taboo, the subject of talking about suicide within the LGBTQIA+ community openly, honestly, and non-judgmentally.
Deliberate self-harm and self-killing are the most common understandings of the meaning of suicide, which is a result of following through with suicidal thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. In comparison to members outside the LGBTQIA+ community, young gay males have a higher risk of suicidal behaviour. Gay pride celebrations occur annually in most major cities all over the world to celebrate how far the community has come over the years, including equality, equal rights, and same-sex marriage, which was legalised in 2014 through the Marriage of Same-Sex Couples Act 2013. Even though there is more support for members of the LGBTQIA+ community than ever before, including charities such as Yorkshire Melmac, the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, and George House Trust in Manchester, the question still stands: Why is there a huge suicide rate among young gay men in their 20s and 30s?
This subject is particularly important because I am a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, in which several friends and acquaintances have committed suicide in the last 15 years, and issues such as drug and alcohol use, mental health issues, self-destructive behaviour, and relationship issues are linked to being LGBTQIA+. Although these issues affect the general population, they are more prevalent among the LGBTQIA+ community as opposed to heterosexuals. This raises the question of why these issues are affecting members of the community more than members who are not, resulting in unanswered questions and raising questions of concern.
My dissertation aim was to explore and identify why suicide rates are still astonishingly high by looking at current and past research within the last 20 years and analysing patterns and themes within the research papers chosen. This was challenging at times to choose which research papers to use, as there is so much research that has been covered previously that shows that this has been and is still an ongoing problem in recent years. We are still facing the issue of suicidality in the LGBTQIA+ community, and there ought to be more prevention strategies in place to prevent this ongoing issue from spiralling out of control.
Just some of the topics covered in my research are the challenges facing the LGBTQIA+ community in terms of the unfair treatment of many groups of individuals, particularly based on race, age, sex, or disability, otherwise known as discrimination. The set of negative assumptions held by society or a group of people, otherwise known as stigma; experiences of bullying, disapproval, and judgement against LGBTQIA+ people and their lifestyle, otherwise known as homophobia; and detailed events of suicidal thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Studies suggest that gay men are more susceptible to drug and alcohol issues, anxiety, low moods, depression, and deliberate self-harming behaviours linked to their sexuality. The detrimental effects of suicide on society and young gay individuals within the community make the members more susceptible to mental health issues, depression, anxiety disorders, and self-destructive behaviours linked to their sexual orientation. Compared to heterosexual people, young gay people are more likely to have a higher lifetime risk of suicidal thoughts, feelings, and actions, which can have a devasting ripple effect on society members associated with the gay individual who has decided to take their own life.
My research also discovered an exploration and detail about other issues within the gay community, such as risky sexual behaviour, substance issues around drugs and alcohol impacting the community, anxiety disorders, emotional issues, and the isolation and loneliness of gay members within the community, while exploring other issues, such as young gay men experiencing financial insecurity and mental health problems, shame and self-judgement of their sexuality and lifestyle, and a lack of support in school, health care, and drug and alcohol recovery settings. All the research papers that I discovered declared that their results can be used for future research and as a preventative for the ongoing issues in the LGBTQIA+ community, which could prevent young gay men from self-loathing, self-harming, and suicidal thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Regardless of the increased acceptance towards LGBTQIA+ members in the 21st century, stigma, homophobia, and victimisation are still ongoing issues for the overall health and well-being of LGBTQIA+ members. Issues such as bullying and violence, according to a substantial body of research, result in internalised homophobia and issues of victimisation, which can impact one’s health, especially for young members of the community.
My topic is relevant now because if being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community is more accepted in the 21st century than ever before, why is the suicide rate for young gay people still astonishingly high? LGBTQIA+ individuals are still being impacted by suicide by the ones they love, causing further trauma and grief regardless of the current support that’s in place, yet so many are still taking their own lives. The importance of this subject is that many members who are LGBTQIA+ are affected by suicide in their community and experience adverse events that are specifically linked to their sexuality.
The benefits of my dissertation and my blog can be to increase awareness of the impact of suicide within the LGBTQIA+ community and for the loved ones who have sadly been taken away from them. Both my dissertation and blog can also be a reminder of the seriousness of this issue and could be used for further research. My topic could be used as a preventative measure and could impact other LGBTQIA+ people by providing validation for some of their negative experiences that are linked to their sexuality or previous suicidal thoughts. My dissertation could potentially save lives, decrease suicide rates within the community, and show other LGBTQIA+ people that they are not alone by having more kindness and acceptance of one another’s similarities and differences within the LGBTQIA+ umbrella.
This could also educate heterosexual members to gain more knowledge, empathy, and understanding of some of the issues LGBTQIA+ individuals are up against, which may reduce some of the existing stigma or homophobia they may feel towards LGBTQIA+ members, leading to more kindness and acceptance of the community itself, including being more sensitive and understanding of the journey that LGBTQIA+ people have been on so far, including the importance of ongoing support groups and health care professionals having an awareness of and being educated about the issues that impact LGBTQIA+ members, including counsellors and support workers.
The nature of my blog is sensitive, and some readers may have experienced suicidal thoughts before or may have lost someone close to them because of suicide. The writings, events, and discoveries may be upsetting, traumatising, and challenging for some. In such circumstances, I urge you to reach out for support from a healthcare professional. In case of an emergency, and for safeguarding reasons, please call 999.
For more support on the above issues, here is a list of trusted LGBTQIA+ organisations.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.