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Dying Alone: An LGBTQ Crisis

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – New numbers from the Utah Health Department show back in 2018, adults died by suicide four times more than youth.  

The Utah Pride Center says a growing number of those adults are in the gay community.  

On a cool Autumn morning, Dane Hoffman uses his ukulele to warm his spirits.  

“It’s a bit of a juggling act sometimes,” Hoffman said.  

Like thousands of other Utahns, the 55- year-old juggles life while managing depression and suicidal tendencies.  

“Getting stuck sometimes in a loop- nobody loves me everybody hates me, I hate me,” Hoffman said.  

Hoffman says the tough times and darker thoughts are never too far away.  

“My first suicide attempt was when I was coming out, I was about 30 years old,” Hoffman said. “I didn’t want to be gay and I didn’t see another way out, so I took some sleeping pills and tried to end my life then”. 

His most recent suicide attempt was a year and a half ago.  

“I’d rather not go into the specifics,” Hoffman said. “I am doing better right now; I think it all has to do with mental health I am very fortunate in that I have a husband who understands and takes care of me without being a therapist”.  

His husband, Charles Hoy-Ellis is a professor at The University of Utah. Hoy-Ellis conducted a study on aging suicide rates in the gay community. That 2011 study was the last one we could find on the topic.   

“This is potentially ageism within the research community and ageism within the LGBTQ community,” professor Charles Hoy-Ellis said. “With implicit biases we typically don’t tend to recognize that we even have them it’s kind of like you are at the end of your life and we need to focus our resources on younger people”.  

A part of that study, Hoy-Ellis polled 2,500 older folks who identify as LGBTQ and 39 percent linked their suicidal thoughts to their sexual orientation.  

Hoy-Ellis says half report lack of companionship and feeling left out.  

“There is a lot of isolation and in the LGBTQ community,” Deb Hall with the Utah Pride Center said.  

That’s where Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (SAGE) steps in to help.  

“We are working on building a well-rounded program for people, so they don’t feel like they are alone,” Hall said.  

Services Hoffman relies on.   

“For folks who have attempted suicide it’s a place where we can talk about how we are doing- really doing it’s a pretty deep group,” Hoffman said.  

Hoffman says SAGE and other programs at The Utah Pride Center have taught him how to manage his emotions.   

“I am usually pretty anxious normally id be hyperventilating and feeling like my hearts going to burst out of my chest but i practice a little bit of mindfulness,” Hoffman said.  

Whether it’s walking his dog or finding the right tune. Dane hopes his story of triumph inspires others.   

“You think someone identifies with your story and maybe helps them on their journey,” Hoffman said.  

Click here for a list of resources.  
 

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