As the world marked Suicide Prevention Day on Monday, out British singer Olly Alexander has headed a campaign to highlight the LGBTIQ+ community’s heightened risk of suicide.
The “Flag We Shouldn’t Be Proud Of” campaign was created by The Gate London agency for Gay Times Magazine and the Switchboard LGBTIQ+ telephone helpline to mark the important day.
The campaign centres around a ceremonial version of the iconic pride flag which has 2 of the 6 stripes removed in order to represent the 2 in 6 LGBTIQ+ young people at risk of being lost to suicide in the UK due to issues including bullying, discrimination, gender identity and mental health.
This powerful statement is made all the more poignant because the lost red and blue stripes traditionally symbolise ‘Life’ and ‘Harmony’.
The project stars Years & Years lead singer and LGBTQ+ activist Olly Alexander. “There’s such a stigma around mental health that stops us from speaking out,” said Alexander. “In the workplace, in education, or even at home, it can feel difficult to express what you’re going through in the first place. Tackling that stigma is one part of it. I also think we have to have the actual services and provisions for LGBTQ people, because they are quite slim on the ground.”
The Editor of Gay Times, William Connolly, added: “As we know, issues surrounding mental health affect LGBTQ people disproportionately, and World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity for us to reflect on the vast work that still needs to be done within the community.”
South African LGBTIQ+ group Triangle Project also marked World Suicide Prevention Day and noted that LGBTIQ+ people often face rejection by family, friends and society in general.
“There is the real risk of institutionalised homophobia. It is made visible in, amongst other places, schools, in the workplace and in spaces of worship. Bullying in schools, harassment in the workplace and alienation in spaces of worship; being unable to reconcile one’s spirituality and sexuality are realities for many.
“LGBTIQ+ people often come across as fun, outgoing, the life and soul of the party and resilient but many of the above mentioned factors take their toll on the emotional well-being of people. They can and do lead to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, isolation and resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance use/abuse,” said Triangle.
According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), there are 23 suicides in South Africa every day, and a further 460 attempted suicides every 24 hours. While there is little information about LGBTIQ+ related suicides in the country, a 2017 study found that sexual-minority youth in the United States are much more likely to consider, plan or attempt suicide (40%) compared to their heterosexual peers (15%).
If you feel depressed or suicidal, reaching out to an LGBTIQ+ organisations could make all the difference. Call Triangle Project in Cape Town (021 712 66 99), OUT LGBT Well-being being in Pretoria (012 430 3272), the Gay & Lesbian Network in PMB (033 342 6165) or the Durban Lesbian & Gay Community & Health Centre (031 312 7402). You can also call the SADAG Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567.