Recent lesbian suicide highlights importance of prevention
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.”