Are LGBT suicides higher?

You regularly hear the claim that homosexual people are more likely to suicide because they aren’t allowed to marry- a strange claim but there you have it. A variation on the theme is we can’t even have a vote on the issue because the poor petals can’t stand debate about whether we should redefine marriage. Are those claims valid?

Terri Kelleher investigates:

FAMILY AND SOCIETY 
Vulnerable GLBT youth pawns in plebiscite game


by Terri M. Kelleher

News Weekly, September 26, 2015

There is no research to show that legalising same-sex marriage would reduce the GLBT suicide rate. It would appear to be based on an ideological assumption rather than on hard evidence.

Like a pawn in a chess game

The current Senate Committee inquiry into a popular vote on same-sex marriage has heard stern warnings against holding a plebiscite or popular vote because it “could damage young gay people”. On ABC Radio’sAMon September 11, NSW Nationals MP Trevor Khan warned against exposing young gay people to the sort of public debate that would be caused by a plebiscite because their rate of suicide and self-harm was much higher than in the general population.[1]

Beyondblue ran a full-page advertisement inThe Australiannewspaper (Tuesday, September 1, page 8) claiming that GLBT people “take their own lives at much higher rates than heterosexual people” and that the current marriage law causes them “hurt, pain, mental illness and worse”.

Although no source was provided for actual GLBT suicide figures, it is deeply concerning that GLBT people experience a higher rate of attempted suicide and suicide ideation than does the general population.

It raises the question: have countries that have legislated same-sex marriage show a reduction in attempted suicide rates for GLBT people?

Denmark legislated for Registered Partnerships in 1989, yet as a 2011 Danish study (Mathy, R.M. et al.) found that suicide risk seemed to be greatly elevated for Danish men in same-sex partnerships.[2]

In the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage was legislated in 2001, almost 64 per cent of LGBT 18–24-year-olds surveyed in 2009 still reported thinking about suicide and almost 13 per cent of them attempted suicide, higher than for their heterosexual peers (Bergen et al., 2013).[3]Legislating same-sex marriage does not appear to have reduced the rate of suicide attempts or suicidal ideation for GLBT young people in the Netherlands.

In Australia there are again no actual figures to show whether the suicide rate in GLBT people is higher than the rate in the population over all. However, of the 5,966 suicide cases examined in a 2014 Queensland study (Skerrett et al., 2014), only 0.58 per cent, or 35 people, were identified as GLBT. The more important finding was that two-thirds of the LGBT subjects had relationship problems with partners, compared with only one-third of the non-GLBT subjects.[4]

 

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