(Good Things Utah) September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and Utah is consistently ranking in the top ten in the United States for suicide deaths.
According to a recent study, 68% of Utahns know someone who has died by suicide. Adults and youth in the LGBTQ community are at an elevated risk for suicide and suicidal behavior.
Numerous factors to support the LGBTQ community have been identified for the state of Utah. As a result, Intermountain Healthcare is providing resources to bring additional awareness to, care for, and aid in the prevention of suicide ideations and behaviors.
Population studies gathered over the past two decades have indicated that higher rates of suicide ideation among members of the LGBTQ community are not due to gender identity or sexual orientation, but rather to the experience in risk factors specifically surrounding mental health issues and substance abuse, and minority stress, according to Mason Turner, MD, senior medical director of behavioral health at Intermountain.
The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey of LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 19% of LGBTQ youth ages 13–18 and 8.3% of LGBTQ youth ages 19–24 reported attempting suicide in the past year. Trans youth in particular are largely affected by suicide rates due to bullying, and parental and societal rejection.
Additionally, the LGBTQ community faces some health issues at a higher rate and may be less likely to access or receive healthcare services, including preventative care (such as cancer screenings, mammograms, and pap smears).
To address these disparities, the Intermountain LGBTQ Health Program is partnering with Intermountain’s Behavioral Health Program to launch training for therapists to become more knowledgeable and affirming of the special needs of the transgender and gender-diverse population.
“Accessing healthcare can be very complex, especially when someone is starting to “come out” and trying to make sense of thoughts and feelings that they may not be able to express or discuss with family or friends – it can be a scary time,” said Ejay Jack, program manager for the Intermountain LGBTQ Health and Gender Care Program.
Therefore, having easily identifiable healthcare providers who are knowledgeable and affirming, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, can have a cascading positive effect on the prevention and treatment of physical and mental health, Jack noted.
“I hope our LGBTQ Health program will continue to grow and help make the LGBTQ community feel respected, comfortable, and affirmed in their healthcare decisions,” Jack added.
This program will also provide the opportunity and value feedback from patients on how services can be better improved for members of the LGBTQ community.
There is an ongoing virtual distance learning program to help train physicians and other providers across the state of Utah to become “knowledgeable and affirming” of the LGBTQ Program.
The Intermountain LGBTQ Health Program is currently developing resources and materials for the public that identify which providers are LGBTQ knowledgeable and affirming, moving beyond the status of just being “LGBTQ friendly.”
“For the LGBTQ population specifically, across the age, gender, and sexuality spectra, enhancing equity in care delivery and employing knowledge of the specialized needs of the population are essential,” said Dr. Turner. “But first, we must listen to understand, demonstrating our compassion for one another as strive to learn.”
Everyone should know that there is help if they or a loved one is struggling. If you are in crisis, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 9-8-8. It is available 24/7, 365 days a year. The free Intermountain Behavior Health Navigation Hotline is also available seven days a week from 7 am to 7 pm.