Proponents of same-sex marriage advocated for legalization not just because they saw it as a basic human and legal right for all couples to marry, but many also argued that equality under the law could lift up young people feeling lost and hopeless.
Data is emerging that suggests this theory is valid.
Each year since 1991, a sample of high school students in the US participate in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, an annual Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey. The anonymous survey, roughly 90 questions long, asks about everything from cyber bullying to sexual assault to carrying weapons to dating violence, and beyond. There is also a section of the survey that asks about students’ feelings of hopelessness, whether they have attempted suicide, and if so, how many times.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for those aged 15-24, but gay, lesbian, and bisexual students surveyed are far more likely to have made a suicide attempt than their straight peers, 29% to about 6%, respectively. The survey does not ask about gender identity. Researchers analyzed data collected between 1999 and 2015, and focused on studying differences in survey results between states that legalized same-sex marriage during that time, and those that did not.
The study found that in the 32 states passing marriage equality measures between 2004 and 2015, youth suicide attempts decreased overall, even among students who identified as heterosexual. But among students who reported being gay, lesbian, or bisexual, suicide attempt rates dropped by 14%. There was no change the rate of suicide attempt in states that did not have marriage equality as of January 2015.
Researchers noted that as with all studies, a simple correlation does not mean causation. However the link between the decrease in attempts among LGB students in just these states is worth contemplation. It suggests, as supporters have been saying for years, that societal stigma towards the LGBT community is harmful to sexual minority youth, and can increase feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Even though most high schoolers are not thinking about marriage, achieving the legal right brings a sense of legitimacy and equality, and leads to a normalization of same-sex relationships and counters the sense that they are wrong or immoral.
For more on this study and the results:
Many of our clients participate in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline is a network of over 160 crisis centers in the U.S. These centers take calls and chats from all across the country, focusing on suicide prevention. These free and confidential services provide crisis support and community resource referrals, 24-hours a day.
Members of the Lifeline network follow proven protocols and guidelines to ensure safe outcomes for those in crisis. Whether you offer crisis services and/or are part of the Lifeline network, protocols and guidelines are critical to the success of your program. Ensuring they are easy to follow not only gives you better outcomes for those in crisis, but makes it easier for your staff and volunteers to do their important work.
I’m often asked by members of the Lifeline network and others in the field doing crisis center work why they should choose iCarol. Very simply put, iCarol is the expert in helping not-for-profit helplines set up their technology, to best support the protocols mentioned above.
In my experience managing a not-for-profit helpline who took calls for the Lifeline, as well as helping iCarol clients do the same, here is how iCarol can help:
- Messaging built right in! Volunteers and staff sign into one system—iCarol—to handle calls for your agencies, calls for the Lifeline, and even chats for the Lifeline, or your own chats or texts. Read more here.
- A live risk assessment gauge, developed by the Lifeline for iCarol, calculates suicide risk in real-time, and provides instructions on the next steps with each risk level. Learn more about this tool.
- Intelligently designed call report forms allow for different ‘paths’ for your call takers. Example: If the call is a Lifeline call, a set of questions appears appropriate for that. Or, if the call is for a different program your agency takes calls for, have a different set of questions pop up.
- Worried that your workers aren’t following certain protocols for imminent risk callers? Take what is described above a step further to make the response(s) required or not. This reduces error, as well as can provide crucial guidance about next steps for the call taker in tense situations.
- Help your workers to provide referrals to community resources, designed in a very easy-to-use interface, even for a worker who is only there a few hours a week can use.
- Provide staff feedback—right in iCarol—to the call taker. This feedback can be private, or visible to all. Perhaps they did not follow a certain protocol of the Lifeline, or another program appropriately. We give you the industry’s best way to provide them this feedback. It alerts them when they log in, to read their feedback, and then tracks it when they do!
- Legal lock of call reports: Did something happen on an interaction that may be subpoenaed or looked into more? You can put a legal lock on it to ensure that no one, even the administrative users in your system, can make changes to it.
Hands down, iCarol is the best solution to support your work with the Lifeline, or other programs.
Want to learn more? Start a free trial or contact me.
The Frank Capra Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” tops many lists for holiday viewing, and it’s already making the rounds on TV channels everywhere (check your local listings!). But have you ever stopped and thought about how this popular and enduring holiday program centers around the topic of one man’s suicide plan? Most people view the film casually and for them the suicide aspect of the story may take a backseat to the other major themes. For anyone working in the suicide prevention or crisis industry though, it’s hard not to view the film from that unique perspective.
13 thoughts of crisis workers when watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”
- It bothers you that the movie perpetuates the myth that suicide rates go up at Christmastime
- You’re envious of the detailed and factual background Clarence has on George, and think of how helpful this would be when working with your clients
- You know of a dozen people you’ve spoken to this month who are in way worse circumstances than George, but knowing how complex and unique suicide can be for each person you’d never judge George for feeling how he does
- You can list all the warning signs that George is giving, and yell at the other characters for not picking up on them
- Even better, you wish someone would talk to George about his behavior and ask him directly if he was thinking of suicide
- You cheer on Mary when she calls a family member to talk about how George was behaving, and doesn’t keep his behavior a secret. Mary – 1 Stigma and Shame – 0
- George’s story reminds you of all the people you’ve spoken to that thought their suicide would be what’s best for their family
- You note the high lethality of George’s plan for suicide
- And think of how more bridges need suicide barriers for this very reason
- It angers you when Clarence tells George he “shouldn’t say such things” when George discusses suicide, effectively shutting him down and judging him rather than listening to why he feels this way.
- You’re relieved when George finds his reasons for living
- You’re thankful for the happy ending, but you know that it’s rarely wrapped up so easily
- You’re reminded of why you do the work you do
Have you had any of these thoughts while watching this classic film? Got any other thoughts to add? We’d love to hear from you, leave us a comment!
And while you may not have wings, we know the countless individuals touched by your caring voices consider you all guardian angels. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to saving lives, during the holidays and all year ’round.
Last week we shared information with you about “The Listeners,” a new documentary film that goes inside the work of suicide prevention helplines and the listeners who work there.
My hometown is one of the locations hosting a screening in the coming weeks, and my local paper published this article about the upcoming screening, the film itself, and the work of the local helpline (where I used to work!) which is a program of the Mental Health Association of Frederick County in Maryland. In fact, this showing is at capacity, having sold out all available tickets.
The article provides information about the services of the helpline in Frederick, Maryland and highlights the tough but valuable work they do. The publication also interviewed Robert Hurst, the director of the film, and he shares his thoughts on the work of the service where he filmed the documentary. He even participated in the volunteer training so he could get a first-hand feeling of what the volunteers go through, and he shares his feelings and experiences on that process.
A final thing to note about the newspaper article is that the author identifies herself as a suicide attempt survivor with lived experience, and shares her thoughts and comments on helpline services. She had valuable insight to provide that is not only interesting and adds a unique and important perspective to the topic, but may be worth sharing with the listeners at your own helpline.
The screening and local media attend around will undoubtedly lead to increased awareness of the hotline’s services, and integrated fundraising both at the screening and online associated with it, will likely lead to a donation boost as well. I’m excited to attend our local screening of “The Listeners” tomorrow and I’ll be sure to share my thoughts after.
UPDATE: The film was awesome and very well-received by the sold out audience of community supporters, mental health advocates, and helpline staff and volunteers. I can’t wait to share my thoughts — stay tuned!
According to Larry C. Johnson’s Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising, few non-profit organizations see their donors as investors. Often times a non-profit will focus on events where donors get some kind of premium for their one-time donation. Johnson ask us to re-imagine this — to move from a transactional construct to one that is more relational. When we ask people to give, we are inviting them to partner with us, to share in our vision and support our mission and programmatic goals. Before any event we should be asking: Does the event fit in with our mission? Is it worth the time, volunteer and staff effort, and upfront costs? How will we continue to engage our donors afterward? Regardless of the event, be it outreach or fundraising focused, it’s helpful to have a donor management system in place beforehand, to capture data and continue engagement post-event.
My center, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, has held multiple fundraising and outreach events — a concert with an out of town performer who’d played previous benefits for our local NAMI chapter; a semicolon tattoo event — almost 100 people got permanent ink of henna tattoos that evening; hosting the film “The Mask You Live In”, a documentary about the risks of toxic masculinity, at our local art house theater; and a golf tournament this summer.
We have learned that the best fundraisers are the ones with the lowest initial overhead and the least amount of logistical work!
We have learned to not be too attached to dollar amounts, but to see these events first and foremost as outreach and volunteer engagement/recruitment opportunities. The concert required the most work and capital outlay, and we just broke even financially. We saw it as an overall success as the press surrounding the event did a lot to raise awareness of our service, and bring more prospective volunteers through our doors. The tattoo and film fundraisers were fairly easy to stage, cost relatively little up front and raised decent money between them. Finally, our golf fundraiser was hosted and staged by a person who had lost a family member to suicide some years prior and approached us with the offer.
We also held an outreach event at a local arts festival where we created “listening stations” (booths with hard wired phones inside and out). One trained volunteer inside each booth played a caller with a thought provoking but non-suicidal/ on-super acute crisis story to tell. We asked participants to pick up the phone and simply listen, while our volunteers, in role, shared their stories. The volunteer then thanked the participant for listening.
With the exception of the concert, our goal with each of these events is to have them be, if possible, “The First Annual…” which lowers the logistical bar for us for next year, and starts to build culture, community and history around each event, both within our shop and in our larger community.
Get creative! Ask your volunteers, staff, and local community members for ideas that fit with your mission! Most of all, have fun with it. Treat your volunteers, staff, and participants well, make the most of community engagement opportunities presented, and keep up the dialogue with all of your new and existing partners/ investors! If you are considering a semicolon tattoo event, keep in mind that an organization called Project Semicolon has trademarked some of the associated imagery and verbiage. We reached out to them and got permission in writing before moving forward with the event.
Guest blogger John Reusser is Director of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, and serves on the Board of Directors for CONTACT USA. John is also a member of the Idaho Council on Suicide Prevention, a board member of the Livewilder Foundation, and Certified ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) Trainer and a licensed Designated Examiner.
Ontario Online and Text Crisis Services program (ONTX) recently marked a year of service to their communities, and shared data with constituents in their latest newsletter. In the report they describe response to the program as “overwhelmingly positive” while allowing contact with many individuals who otherwise would not have reached out for help.
Some key findings:
- Total chats and texts: 8,921
- 75% of visitors were under 24 years old, while that same demographic makes up a very small portion of their phone callers
- Over 200 specialists trained to take chats and texts
- They receive an average of 5 suicide-related contacts each time the service is open
- More than half of visitors said that in the absence of an online emotional support service like ONTX, they would not have spoken to anyone about their problem
For a full look at the released findings click here, or read a summary here. Want future updates from ONTX and other services of DC Ontario? Be sure to sign up for Distress and Crisis Ontario’s newsletter by emailing your request to .
We’re thrilled by the success of our friends at ONTX, though it comes as no surprise to us that they’ve had this response. The caring people at the Distress and Crisis Ontario have been providing listening support and crisis intervention to Ontario for nearly 50 years. Their latest step to make their services available in a way that works for everyone in need demonstrates their commitment to helping people and saving lives.
Please see below for a career opportunity with our friends at United Way 2-1-1 in North Carolina:
Please see below for a career opportunity with our friends at MHA-NYC:
MHA-NYC is recruiting for the exciting new role of Program Director for the NYC Support program. NYC Support will continue the pathbreaking history of its predecessor, LifeNet, as New York City’s premier information and referral, supportive counseling, and crisis intervention services by telephone, text, and web chat. In addition, NYC Support will utilize cutting edge technologies to provide peer support services, enhanced follow-up, and eventually appointment scheduling to New Yorkers 24/7/365. MHA-NYC is looking for a Program Director to manage all aspects of the program’s operations and clinical practice, and continue LifeNet’s legacy of dynamic leadership in the crisis center community.
Read the full job description and application instructions here.
Like so many others throughout the US and the rest of the world, we’re heartbroken over the events that played out early Sunday morning in Orlando. Yet another city’s name has become synonymous with tragedy.
Violence inflicted upon any person or group of people is horrific regardless of the circumstances, location in the world, or nature of the attack. The shooting in Orlando left us saddened because for many who identify as LGBTQIA, clubs and bars like Pulse make up part of the fabric of the LGBT community along with outreach centers and other friendly gathering places. For those who don’t find acceptance at home, these spaces are sanctuaries and the people in them become like family. This act of violence was carried out during Pride Month when members of the LGBT community and their allies are celebrating together.
These events are a sobering reminder that even in times of sweeping progress for LGBT causes and more visibility than ever, danger still exists and for some communities it is an epidemic. The threat of violence makes a huge impact on the mental health and well-being of LGBT people, and losses to suicide and suicide attempt rates continue to be higher among LGBT populations than those of non-LGBT counterparts.
Let us not allow intolerance and violence towards one group spawn persecution of another. Let us all try every day to bring education and awareness to those who may fear the unfamiliar and unknown. Whether that is fear of a sexuality, gender, religion, culture, race, ethnicity, nationality, or other qualities they may find foreign to their own experience. Ignorance, fear, or intolerance can morph and grow into hatred and violence when fed and nurtured. Knowledge and education can bolster tolerance and acceptance. Most importantly, let’s all love and support one another and recognize that when we all stand together in peace and solidarity, we stand stronger.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.– Martin Luther King, Jr.
To the LGBT and other helplines around the world, thank you for being the light that drives out darkness for so many people.
For emotional support, information and referral, educational materials, and other ways you can support and help the LGBTQIA community, please explore the resources below.
The Trevor Project
Switchboard LGBT Helpline
Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Lesbian & Gay Switchboard
Gay Switchboard Ireland
It Gets Better Project
Human Rights Campaign
Have a resource to add to this list? Leave us a comment below!
Kevin Hines is a mental health advocate, filmmaker, and best-selling author. He’s also one of only a very few people who have survived a suicide attempt by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Tonight he’ll speak in Mandeville, LA at an event titled Cracked but Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving after a Suicide Attempt.
Read more about this event, and its special meaning for the local community hosting Kevin tonight. Thanks to our own Christa who alerted us to this story! Sadly she wanted to attend but can’t, as she’s preparing to head to St. Louis for our iCarol Summit and the AIRS Conference. We have a good number of iCarol users and blog readers living in this area of the country, so if you do live in the greater New Orleans area, please consider attending this speaking engagement or sharing it with your friends.
Photo (c) Kevin Hines 2014 from www.kevinhinesstory.com