Last night, Ashwin*, a young gay man, took his life. In less than a year, there have been three deaths in the small but active Lucknow’s LGBTQIA community. Two out of the three have been suicides. Coming out of the closet, acceptance by the family and society’s disapproval are the key factors that contribute to suicide by LGBTQ+ youngsters. Ashwin was an intelligent, handsome, and caring young man who dreamt of being a fashion designer. He was a victim of physical violence at the hands of his own homophobic brother. He had aspirations and he just wanted to move away from a “home” that didn’t welcome him. Like most of the other queer folks, Ashwin grew up being bullied and bashed by his peers and by being rejected by his family. India is no place for queer youth. With the draconian laws that criminalize homosexuality, the prejudice and bias of the society, and the general non-acceptance by the family makes it hard for queer youth to survive.
Studies have found that GLBT youth attempt suicide 3 times more frequently than heterosexuals. The queer youth often talk about the judgment, hatred, insults, negative comments, and violence that are part of their daily lives. This daily abuse may result in youth and adults experiencing suicidal thoughts and behavior. There have been many horror stories in the media about queer youth who commit suicide because they were being harassed. Last year, a lesbian couple from Mumbai attempted suicide after being harassed and abused by their families and colleagues. One of the two died. Another lesbian couple in Chennai set themselves ablaze when their families tried to separate them.
I recount these stories to show that these were real people that had real lives and because they were not accepted or feared being rejected, they decided to end their lives.
Most people give warning signs or signals of their suicidal intentions. The best way to prevent suicide is to recognize these warning signs and know how to respond if you spot them. If you believe that someone is suicidal, you can play a role in suicide prevention by pointing out the alternatives and talking to them. Lend a patient ear to the person who is suicidal, be sympathetic, and give them hope. Life is beautiful. When you see someone putting a sad status on Facebook, or uploading a self-harm picture on WhatsApp, do not ignore it. Many people dismiss it as a cry for attention but sometimes it’s just a desperate cry for help.
If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a word of encouragement, or attempts to understand a lonely person, extraordinary things begin to happen.
*Name changed to protect identity