religious_support_linked_to_gay_suicidesA US study has found that seeking help from religious or spiritual sources when coming out could be very bad for your health.

According to the unsettling research, getting help from health care providers doesn’t seem to make much difference as to whether lesbians, gays and bisexuals (LGBs) attempt suicide.

But even more disturbingly, the researchers found that seeking help from religious or spiritual sources could actually increase your risk of a suicide attempt.

The study reports that only about 16 percent of LGBs who made a serious suicide attempt sought mental health treatment from a health professional prior to the attempt, while about 13 percent sought religious or spiritual treatment prior to the attempt.

Those who sought mental health or medical treatment prior to their suicide attempt were as likely as those who did not to have a suicide attempt.

Counselling from a religious or spiritual advisor, however, was actually associated with worse outcomes for LGBs. Compared with individuals who did not seek help at all, those who sought help from a religious or spiritual advisor were more likely later to attempt suicide.

“The findings are troubling because seeking treatment is a recommended suicide prevention strategy and this study’s results show no more positive effect for people who sought treatment,” said study co-author Ilan H. Meyer.

“More troubling is the finding that individuals who sought religious or spiritual treatment had higher odds of later attempting suicide than those who did not seek treatment at all,” he noted.

The study also found that 17% of the LGBs who took part reported a suicide attempt and 8% reported a serious suicide attempt over their lifetime. On average, the serious suicide attempts coincided with major coming out milestones.

The study, The Role of Help-Seeking in Preventing Suicide Attempts among Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals, was co-authored by Meyer (Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law), Merilee Teylan, (Medical School, Harvard University), and Sharon Schwartz, (Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University).

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