Esther Ybarra-Bryant lost her 13-year-old son, Nathan, to suicide 25 years ago. After experiencing this tragedy, she discovered comfort and support at the Hirsh Mental Health Center in Los Angeles. Ybarra-Bryant connected with others who had also experienced similar loss and eventually became a volunteer at the center, hoping to help other parents and prevent the heartbreak that comes with suicide.
Although her son is no longer with her, Ybarra-Bryant finds solace in the belief that he is the brightest star, which she symbolizes with the shining stars she sees every night.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 45% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual teenagers have considered suicide compared to 15% of heterosexual teens. Despite this, resources are available to prevent further loss and ensure that LGBTQ+ teens do not suffer in silence. The 988 Crisis Line recently adopted an easy-to-remember number to provide immediate assistance to individuals in crisis or those with suicidal thoughts.
Karla Centeno, the bilingual coordinator for the 988 Crisis Line, believes that open communication is essential. She urges individuals to express their struggles to decrease the risk of suicide. It is worth noting that being LGBTQ+ does not automatically put individuals at risk. Environmental factors such as family, school, peers, and community affect their mental health.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has hired specialized counselors for the past two years to help address the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth. These counselors are available every hour of every day to ensure that anyone in the community can obtain professional support and referrals.
Experts emphasize the importance of correcting myths linked to suicide. One damaging misconception is the belief that discussing suicide increases the likelihood of suicidal thoughts. On the contrary, open conversations about the issue can reduce the risk of suicide, which is the primary goal of mental health experts.
While statistics are essential, every death by suicide represents an immense loss that could have been prevented. It is crucial to raise awareness, provide resources, and foster supportive environments to ensure that those struggling with suicidal thoughts get the help they need.