Re­cent les­bian sui­cide high­lights im­por­tance of preven­tion

GA Voice - - News -

Lisa Law­son, a Clay­ton County les­bian re­ported miss­ing Nov. 19, was found by po­lice de­ceased in her car Dec. 4.

The death shocked At­lanta’s LGBT com­mu­nity, who had learned of Law­son’s dis­ap­pear­ance thanks to a me­dia cam­paign cre­ated by her girl­friend, Michelle Alexan­der, to help find Law­son while she was miss­ing. Less than 24 hours af­ter the cam­paign went vi­ral, Law­son was found de­ceased in a Wal-Mart park­ing lot of an ap­par­ent sui­cide. In­ves­ti­ga­tors de­ter­mined her last known lo­ca­tion us­ing cell tower records.

Law­son had taken her life with two self­in­flicted gun­shot wounds, ac­cord­ing to a McDonough po­lice report. She was 40 years old.

“I am tremen­dously grate­ful for the com­mu­nity in the way they came to­gether to help find Lisa. No mat­ter what, we sup­port one an­other,” Alexan­der said in a brief state­ment to GA Voice.

Alexan­der and Law­son had been to­gether for around five months, Alexan­der told GA Voice in an­other in­ter­view be­fore Law­son was found.

Gay peo­ple more likely to at­tempt sui­cide

While the rea­sons for Law­son’s ap­par­ent ac­tion re­main un­known, the case high­lights the is­sue of sui­cide, es­pe­cially among LGBT peo­ple, who are more likely to at­tempt sui­cide than het­ero­sex­u­als.

“A meta-anal­y­sis of 25 in­ter­na­tional pop­u­la­tion-based stud­ies found the life­time preva­lence of sui­cide at­tempts in gay and bi­sex­ual male ado­les­cents and adults was four times that of com­pa­ra­ble het­ero­sex­ual males,” ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Sur­geon Gen­eral’s 2012 Na­tional Strat­egy for Sui­cide Preven­tion.

“Life­time sui­cide at­tempt rates among les­bian and bi­sex­ual fe­males were al­most twice those of het­ero­sex­ual fe­males,” ac­cord­ing to the report, which was com­piled in con­junc­tion with the Na- tional Ac­tion Al­liance for Sui­cide Preven­tion.

The hol­i­days are a par­tic­u­larly stress­ful time and can ex­ac­er­bate symp­toms of de­pres­sion, said At­lanta ther­a­pist Paul Austin, who been coun­sel­ing LGBT peo­ple for two decades.

This time of year, Austin said, is filled with tra­di­tion and can be a re­minder of past trauma.

“Of­ten times, peo­ple who are hav­ing is­sues with guilt or re­gret, or they haven’t got­ten through trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ences they’ve had in the past,” Austin said of the un­der­ly­ing causes of de­pres­sion. “You’ve got the lonely side and not con­nect­ing as much so­cially as they want or you have some­one who has bad mem­o­ries or trauma. It can be just trauma or just things that have gone a bad way based on re­la­tion­ships with the fam­ily.”

But how do you know if some­one you love is deal­ing with de­bil­i­tat­ing de­pres­sion? And what can you do if you be­lieve some­one you care about is con­sid­er­ing sui­cide?

Austin said there are warn­ing signs, but they are easy to over­look.

“A change in in­ter­est and ac­tiv­ity, so their ac­tiv­ity level will al­ter or change, usu­ally de­creas­ing,” he listed. “In­creased iso­la­tion or if they’re in a crowd, they may be less out­go­ing than they nor­mally are. If they are the life of the party, they might turn down the vol­ume [if they’re de­pressed].”

Other warn­ing signs in­clude changes in ap­petite, sleep habits and fail­ing to main­tain ap­pear­ance.

If you be­lieve some­one is deal­ing with th­ese is­sues, Austin has a piece of sim­ple ad­vice: Talk to them.

“You can ask about it. Reach­ing out and con­nect­ing so­cially is one of the best ways that some­one can be there. They may be a life­line to the per­son in shar­ing the pain and help them walk through what­ever they’re go­ing through,” he said.

When some­one talks or jokes about sui­cide, it can be a fi­nal cry for help, Austin said. Tak­ing those con­ver­sa­tions se­ri­ously could help save a life. NA­TIONAL SUI­CIDE PREVEN­TION LIFE­LINE 1-800-273-8255 • Talk­ing about want­ing to die • Look­ing for a way to kill one­self • Talk­ing about feel­ing hope­less or

hav­ing no pur­pose • Talk­ing about feel­ing trapped or in

un­bear­able pain • Talk­ing about be­ing a bur­den to oth­ers • In­creas­ing the use of al­co­hol or drugs • Act­ing anx­ious, ag­i­tated or reck­lessly • Sleep­ing too lit­tle or too much • With­draw­ing or feel­ing iso­lated • Show­ing rage or talk­ing about

seek­ing re­venge • Dis­play­ing ex­treme mood swings

“Usu­ally when some­one’s talk­ing about a sui­cide, they’re ask­ing for help,” Austin said. “They want to be con­nected. You can help them to find a ther­a­pist or coun­selor they can con­nect with to start work­ing through it. Take them se­ri­ously.”

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