LGBTI suicide study finds home is where the heart is

Dr Delaney Skerrett

We have long become accustomed to believing that the most distressing part of coming out as same-sex attracted is the possible rejection by family.

However a recent Griffith study into suicide in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people has found family conflict and rejection is one of the least likely reasons for suicide.

Researcher, Dr Delaney Skerrett, and colleagues Professor Diego De Leo and Dr Kairi Kõlves, from the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) have been conducting research over the last year, using information from the Queensland Suicide Register to find out more about the factors related to LGBTI suicide.

“I have to say I was surprised about the family conflict part. We tend to assume that the psychological distress LGBTI people are often going through is due to family rejection. But it seems that’s not so much the case,” says Dr Skerrett.

“The conflict seems to be largely related to relationship problems, with partners.”

As the debate around marriage equality continues, Dr Skerrett may have found deeper issues around why diverse relationships need to be celebrated.

Still facing stigma

“LGBTI people are still facing stigma and a lack of acceptance at a societal level and that plays out in various ways in their lives, like relationship conflict. If your relationship seems less valid than that of your straight friends and family, your problems are less valid too, which means they’re not addressed,” he says.

“The numbers are telling us there’s a general acceptance at the family level, which is great; it’s really heartening! This seems to be backed up in the early stages of our second phase, where we’re doing interviews. But it says we still have a way to go in helping LGBTI people live healthy, happy lives.”

In more predictable findings, the survey found LGBTI people who died from suicide are more likely to suffer depression than straight Australians.

However no suicides in the LGBTI group were attributed to psychotic disorders, which accounted for 12.9% of suicides in the non-LGBTI cases examined.

Part two of the project sponsored by beyondblue involves interviewing people who were close to an LGBTI person that died by suicide, looking at their lives and what might have led up to the decision for them to take their own lives.

“We are trying to dig much deeper by interviewing family members or friends directly. Plus we’re interviewing LGBTI people of the same gender identification and similar age as a comparison.”

If your LGBTI friend, family member or loved one died by suicide and you wish contribute to Dr Skerrett’s study please email d.skerrett@griffith.edu.au