Suicide: Rates are high.
December 04, 2009 5:41 PM
BY JENNA CHANDLER
THE PORTERVILLE RECORDER
A well known national organization geared towards preventing suicide attempts among gay youth has begun an educational and awareness push in Tulare County.
It will be the first time representatives from The Trevor Project have worked in a rural, conservative area in California.
It is a partnership that the county’s suicide prevention task force and the nonprofit organization say will likely reduce the number of suicide attempts in Tulare County. It will simultaneously launch the Trevor Project’s efforts in reaching such a vulnerable community in other rural municipalities statewide.
"Getting to the point where you want to end your life is not OK," Dave Reynolds, a manager at the Trevor Project, said. "It is a social justice problem, it’s a serious public health problem."
Established in 1988, with headquarters in Los Angeles, the Trevor Project operates with a $2.1 million budget, and relies on social networking sites and school workshops to reduce high rates of suicide attempts among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth nationwide.
The nonprofit organization touts statistics to further its mission of promoting acceptance of gay people. Those who come from non-accepting families are up to nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
The contract signed with the Tulare County Suicide Prevention Task force is for two years at the rate of $50,000 total, and paid for with funding from the Mental Health Services Act.
Representatives will be here about three days per month for the next two years.
Since January, 36 people have committed suicide county-wide, with six of them having occurred in the Porterville area. Nearly half were among people aged 35 to 50, with the youngest person being 11-years-old.
In total, 12 are listed as being motivated by relationship problems, or emotional issues or depression, according to data maintained by the Tulare County Coroner’s Department.
Recent studies show that 1 in 3 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender youth will attempt suicide. Attempts are often reaction to how they are being treated in their homes, schools and religious communities.
"This is a community susceptible to suicide and suicide attempts," Noah Whitaker, a task force member said.
Such statistics are not tracked locally, but as a part of their commitment to Tulare County, Trevor Project’s staff and volunteers will begin to do so, according to Whitaker.
When the task force received its funding from the Mental Health Services Act, its members determined it would be "the best group to go about handling," he said.
While the Trevor Project’s suicide prevention hotline (866-4-U-TREVOR) has yet to gain popularity in Tulare County, Reynolds expects that will change. A disproportionate number of calls to the 24/7 free and confidential service come from rural areas.
He aims to work with students in potentially every school, to teach them empathy for people who are different, and the negative impacts of using words like "gay," "faggot" and "dyke."
"Young people tend to go to their friends with their issues … before they go to adults and parents," he said. "We will equip all young people to know how to handle these tough issues when they come up."
Educators, physicians, social workers, and the like, will receive training on what triggers suicide and its warning signs.
Contact information for The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
Contact Jenna Chandler at 784-5000, Ext. 1050, or [email protected]