It is vital that we continue the discussion on suicide with the recent loss of a member of the trans/gender-nonconforming community. Our community shared this advice in Transcend The Binary’s recent study, “Finding Our Strength.” Transcend the Binary is an organization dedicated to aiding the TGNC community through resources, education, research and affirming care, and this work aided that goal in exploring the daily lives of over 300 individuals in our TGNC community, with support from the University of Michigan.
Nearly everyone included in the report worried about discrimination in everyday life, and Transcend’s research shows that we internalize discrimination, too – the majority responded accepting this as a ‘fact of life’ and one third believed they were responsible for this mistreatment. Additionally, anxiety rates were found to be very high – our research shows 80 percent reported anxiety and 20 percent were at risk for depression. National also data shows that 40 percent of our community attempts suicide.
Consulting with our licensed clinical social worker, Caitlin Tupper, she said guilt, shame and stigma can prevent people from disclosing depressive symptoms and suicidal ideations. Because of this, at Transcend, we work to destigmatize and normalize mental health concerns and this is a large reason why our model of care centers on peer advocates providing support services; they can draw on their own personal experiences as appropriate.
There are also barriers to accessing services. This may include past negative experiences with therapists as well as unfamiliarity with, or lack of trust in the therapy process. We work to overcome these roadblocks by personally vetting therapists for a strong background in TGNC-care. Transcend offers continued advocacy support for our clients, as requested. We problem-solve sliding scale and transportation barriers. We work one-on-one with our clients to build their ‘support team’ – connecting them with a suite of services, referrals, support groups and peer counseling.
You are part of this support team, too. In Finding Our Strength, 88 percent of respondents reported reaching out to others to talk. We have compiled lists below to empower you in supporting loved ones who may be experiencing depression or suicidal ideation.
Warning Signs & What to Watch For:
– Giving away belongings or saying goodbyes
– Isolating self from others
– Impulsive or reckless behaviors uncharacteristic of the person
– Recent major life stressors and/or losses
– Irritability and anger
– Making “jokes” or vague statements about suicide
– Lost interest in activities and passions they once had
– History of suicide attempts
– A stark change: suddenly seemingly improved / having more energy after a period of depression
How to Provide Support:
– Listen and be present. This in itself can be a great gift to them, by sharing an outlet to express themselves without judgement.
– Let them know they are not alone. Identify the support that they do have.
– You don’t need to ‘have the answers. Let go of the pressure to find ‘the right’ solution. Believe in them, and if anything, explore different options with them by asking questions.
– Ask them how they would like to be supported. Maybe it’s just talking, or being there.
– Identify what has helped them cope so far. This may be music, movies, video games, journaling, creating.
– Instill a sense of hope – identify aspects of life that they still enjoy. Discuss future goals they are looking forward to. Make future plans with them.
– Assure them that they won’t always feel the way they are feeling right now. Acknowledge that this is hard. Acknowledge that they are strong. Assure them that there is more in store for them.
– Highlight what motivates them, or makes them unique. Encourage them to recognize their strengths. I may be very powerful for people to hear a perspective of what makes them special and what you admire about them.
– Encourage them to seek professional help. Normalizing and destigmatizing therapy is very helpful. Telling them that they deserve the space to work through this, and they deserve the tools and support to navigate this.
– Ensure them you are able to take care of yourself. Seek your own support, and be active in your own self-care.
If you or someone you know is experiencing crisis, remember the advice from our community. You have survived 100 percent of your worst days. There is a whole community ready to hold you close.
Trevor Project – 1.866.488.7396
Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1.800.273.TALK
Trans Lifeline – 1.877.565.8860
Crisis Text Line – Text ‘START’ to 741741
Transcend the Binary
If you or someone you know is seeking support as a survivor of suicide and coping with grief, we can share supportive resources as well. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.