Ear­lier sui­cide at­tempt marks fi­nal year

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

Smith was born Jan­uary 18, 1984 to David Smith and the late Dana Thomas Jensen. He was a vis­ual artist who loved to cre­ate mu­sic and spend time with his close group of friends.

“An­drew had a nat­u­ral tal­ent at cre­at­ing. He could’ve been a great mu­si­cian,” Mor­gan said, “I used to have a CD of all of his mu­sic which in­cluded some hi­lar­i­ous phone calls he had with his grand­mother.”

Smith, who was di­ag­nosed with bipo­lar dis­or­der, was also openly gay and knew at a very young age. All of his friends were drawn to his mag­netic per­son­al­ity.

“An­drew was a per­son that ig­nited a room,” said Adri­enne Alexan­der Thiesing. “We be­came friends when we were teenagers; we both felt quirky in Rome and dared to be dif­fer­ent. He put a lot of thought into all that he did and was in­cred­i­bly tal­ented.”

“He wore a shirt that said ‘I Like Boys’ dur­ing his first day of mid­dle school,” Mor­gan said laugh­ing. “He even had a straight phase for a sec­ond. It was like, ‘You’re gay, dude. It’s okay. We all love you.’”

Liv­ing in a small, con­ser­va­tive town like Rome, Ge­or­gia and get­ting bul­lied through­out

November 25, 2016

his life for his sex­u­al­ity made him feel re­jected and un­wanted ac­cord­ing to many of his friends.

“An­drew Smith was one of the most non­judg­men­tal peo­ple I’ve ever met in my life,” Thiesing said. “Un­for­tu­nately, he did not al­ways feel ac­cep­tance in re­turn. Those who judged and ridiculed him not only deeply hurt him; they greatly im­pacted his con­fi­dence and hap­pi­ness.”

Some­thing in An­drew’s per­son­al­ity took a dark turn this year. Friends say he was self-med­i­cat­ing with drugs, and his sui­ci­dal symp­toms peaked.

“As the years went by, An­drew’s pain and sad­ness even­tu­ally turned into de­pres­sion and his men­tal state be­gan to slip,” Thiesing said. “He sought treat­ment count­less times and reached out in times of need but the waves kept knock­ing him down.”

Af­ter a sui­cide at­tempt landed him at Er­langer Hospi­tal in Chattanooga, his friends hoped for a change.

“I thought he would get some real help,” Mor­gan said, “but the men­tal health laws are so lax, he left the hospi­tal pretty quickly even though he needed to stay there.”

Al­though Smith got some coun­sel­ing, it could have been harder for him to latch on to break­throughs due to his sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

“For some peo­ple, there is still a stigma at­tached to seek­ing psy­chother­apy,” Ballew said. “That pro­longs peo­ple’s suf­fer­ing and can be life-threat­en­ing for some. De­pres­sion and anx­i­ety are com­mon in our so­ci­ety— par­tic­u­larly among LGBT peo­ple who may feel iso­lated or re­jected.”

Even with the bipo­lar di­ag­no­sis, Smith was more sus­cep­ti­ble to sui­cide that his straight peers.

“Sui­ci­dal­ity is a se­ri­ous is­sue in the LGBT com­mu­nity; it is the sec­ond lead­ing cause of death among young peo­ple 10 to 24 years of age.” Ballew said, “LGBT youth are thought to be four to six times more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence self-in­jury than their straight peers.”

Ballew adds that Smith’s friends and fam­ily might also con­sider coun­sel­ing.

“Feel­ings of guilt and grief are com­mon among sur­vivors,” he said. “Talk­ing with oth­ers who have been there can help. So can talk­ing with a men­tal health pro­fes­sional.”

—Adri­enne Alexan­der Thiesing, a friend of the late An­drew Smith

Sui­cide is one of the top 10 lead­ing causes of death in the United States. If you or any­one you know are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sui­ci­dal feel­ings, a good re­source is the Ge­or­gia Cri­sis and Ac­cess Line: 1-800-715-4225. For LGBT young peo­ple The Trevor Project can help: 1-866-488-7386.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.