National Suicide Prevention Month kicks off as rates continue to rise; LGBTQ+ youth more at-risk

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PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — September is National Suicide Prevention Month and experts say outreach is needed more than ever, especially for young people.

Their rates of suicide continue to rise with LGBTQ+ young people at an even higher risk.

That’s why experts encourage people to have tough conversations about suicide. Madelyn Morrison remembers the first such conversation she had with her mother when she was just 12 years old.

“She yelled and I was crying. And I remember trying to explain to her,” said Morrison about the incident in which her mother stopped her as she was contemplating suicide.

Morrison, who identifies as a transgender woman, has always struggled with the dilemma that her gender identity posed growing up in Philadelphia.

“My first suicide attempt, I was 12. My last suicide attempt I was 38,” she said.

It’s a conversation that Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services Suicide Prevention Coordinator Patrick Kessel says everyone should be equipped to have.

“Simply stating what you’ve observed in a non-confrontational way can be a great way to start that conversation,” said Kessel.

He also advises loved ones to look out for things like changes in behavior and unexplained injuries.

Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. for children ages 10 to 14 and number three for ages 15 to 24.

The 6abc data team found that nationwide, nearly 49,500 people took their own lives last year. That’s a 2.6% increase from 2021.

“There has been a trend of suicide rates rising for the last 20 years,” said Kessel.

That rise has been higher for people of color and for people in the LGBTQ+ community.

“It makes me really sad because I think it’s something that can be so preventable,” said Jasper Liem, director of The Attic Youth Center in Center City.

The nonprofit organization focuses on LGBTQ+ youth.

“As a trans person myself, being able to express myself more authentically took so much weight off my shoulders,” he said.

Morrison’s life experience also helps her assist at The Attic. Her job also involves educating businesses, schools, and organizations when it comes to making safe environments for LGBTQ+ people.

The worry now is how recent anti-trans legislation in several states could impact young people.

“They feel forgotten, they feel lost,” said Morrison.

It’s why advocates are working to empower all people and remove the stigma of suicide by starting with a conversation.

“Nobody wants to go through this alone,” said Liem.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will host its annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on October 1.

More information can be found here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, the following resources can help:

988 – Call anytime, 24/7 on any day of the year for behavioral health crises and support / click here for more info.

Community Behavioral Health (CBH) Member services (to be connected to services and supports) – Call 888-545-2600 / click here for its website.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – click here / email contact:

National Alliance on Mental Illness Philly – click here.

Healthy Minds Philly – click here.

Click here for the 6abc Video