How can I help my friend with suicidal ideas?
Hello. It happens quite often that I have to cheer up someone who’s depressed or even suicidal because of his/her sexual orientation. I wouldn’t consider myself the best person for these kinds of things, and at times, I wonder if I really helped them or if I actually made matters worse… What can one do or say to someone who is not comfortable in their skin with respect to his/her sexuality as a gay man or as a lesbian, especially if they/re suicidal? Thanks so much.
Coming out can be a very troubling time for many young people. Alarmingly, the rate of suicide can be up to 14 times higher for young gay males than it is for their heterosexual counterparts. For this reason, it is extremely important that any indication of suicidal feelings be taken very seriously. Try to be as supportive as possible but also be aware that there are free services such as Interligne (514-866-5090 or 1-888-505-1010), Suicide Action Montréal (514-723-4000), McGill University Sexual Identity Centre (514-934-8010), your local hospital emergency room, CLSCs and his/her/their own family doctor that are all well equipped to deal with people who are feeling suicidal or depressed.
You’ve also hit on another very common feeling in queer people which you described as “feeling not comfortable in their skin with respect to his/her sexuality as a gay man or lesbian.” This is also known as internalized homophobia, a feeling which is present in virtually all non-heterosexual people to some degree or another given that we all grow up in a homophobic / heteronormative society. In this case, the best thing you can do as a friend is to offer support, and if you are bisexual, gay or lesbian, share your experiences and how you came to overcome some of your negative feelings about your sexuality. Sharing fun activities especially exercising together can also be quite helpful.
However, if you suspect that your friend is depressed, then the first course of action as a friend would be to suggest that he/she find professional help to speed up the healing process. Any of the phone numbers listed above would be a great first place to start to find referrals to professionals who would be able to help out.
Michael Benibgui, M.A.
McGill University Sexual Identity Centre