Advocates see rise in gay suicide

Published: Friday, Aug. 6 2010 10:58 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — As the number of suicides among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations continues to increase across the nation, concern among the Utah LGBT community has begun to push the issue into the spotlight.

In July, Utah's LGBT community lost at least three members to suicide, including a 28-year-old man whose death was mourned by more than 300 people during a candlelight vigil on the steps of the state Capitol.

Two other suicides of well-known members of the LGBT community, also gay men, have occurred in the past month. Though the problem is well known to LBGT advocates in Utah and nationwide, there are no statistics to back up its seriousness.

"This is a serious problem in general," said Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, "and it's a serious problem in Utah."

Since 2006, Larabee has served on the Utah Suicide Prevention Council, which has identified the state's LGBT community as a high-risk minority group for suicide.

Larabee said suicide is a common topic of discussion among support groups meeting at the Utah Pride Center.

"Over my 10 years here, every year we've had people (in the local LGBT community) who have killed themselves," she said.

Despite the lack of specific data on suicides among the LGBT community, officials say it's a problem.

"Suicide generally is a really tough field to study," said Anne Haaf, director of prevention projects for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, based in New York City. "As much research goes into it, it's still something that we don't have really firm answers to. Why does somebody take their life?"

Jacob Jacquez was among those at the state Capitol recently who paid his respects to his deceased friend.

"Unfortunately, this tragedy that has happened to my family impacts so many others the same way," said Jacquez, who had been in a relationship with the man. "Suicide, especially in the LGBT community, just happens too much."

e-mail: gbarker@desnews.com

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