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Attributing suicide among LGBTQ to discrimination is over-simplistic and unhelpful

I read with interest TODAY’s report “Church leaders discuss hurt, trauma faced by LGBTQ people in dialogue session” (Jan 15, 2022) on the Whitehatters dialogue on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues.

“Suicide is a highly complex issue with multiple contributing factors, the combination of which is never the same for any two persons,” says the writer, a senior consultant psychiatrist who is responding to a pastor’s comment at a recent LGBTQ dialogue.

“Suicide is a highly complex issue with multiple contributing factors, the combination of which is never the same for any two persons,” says the writer, a senior consultant psychiatrist who is responding to a pastor’s comment at a recent LGBTQ dialogue.

Chan Lai Gwen

I read with interest TODAY’s report “Church leaders discuss hurt, trauma faced by LGBTQ people in dialogue session” (Jan 15, 2022) on the Whitehatters dialogue on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues.

I would like to respond to the remark made by Pastor Miak Siew about the high rate of suicide and self-harm among the LGBTQ community.

He was quoted as saying: “The cause is not (being) LGBTQ in and of itself but the experience of being LGBTQ, that space of being discriminated, that space of being told you are not good enough, that we will reject you."

In my professional opinion as a senior consultant psychiatrist with substantial experience in working with members of this community, this is an unqualified and irresponsible comment by a non-mental health professional.

Suicide is a highly complex issue with multiple contributing factors, the combination of which is never the same for any two persons.

Some of these factors may include the presence of mental illness, substance use, family history, environmental and social factors, among others.

An over-simplistic attribution of suicide/self-harm to a single cause of the experience of being discriminated or rejected for identifying as LGBTQ only has the unnecessary and immensely unhelpful effect of the casting of blame and/or inducing guilt in stakeholders involved in LGBTQ issues, regardless of the views they uphold.

It also leads to the myth and misunderstanding that if all discrimination and rejection were to be removed from the community, there would be no more suicides.

Unfortunately, this does not serve to positively develop the conversation between all parties on LGBTQ issues, which runs counter to the very admirable objective that the non-governmental organisation Whitehatters had.

I believe that all who attended the dialogue, and perhaps even more people out there, seek common ground in order to lower the suicide rates in the LGBTQ community.

Hence, we should be focusing on practical ways to reach out to and help persons at risk of suicide, instead of casting such uninformed stones that only add an additional layer of sensitivity to an already sensitive topic.

Please remember that help is available for anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Ensuring that they access the help that they need will save precious lives, and sometimes it does not need professional help to avert the crisis momentarily.

It could be as simple as a listening ear, a sense of not being alone, and/or being given a sense of hope for tomorrow.

Formal resources for help include the Samaritans of Singapore who have a 24-hour hotline, and the emergency department of any Singapore hospital.

ABOUT THE WRITER:

Adjunct assistant professor Chan Lai Gwen is a senior consultant psychiatrist at a Singapore public hospital.

Have views on this issue or a news topic you care about? Send your letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

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LGBTQ suicide discrimination

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