Exploring lived experience in gender and sexual minority suicide attempt survivors
Williams, S.M., Frey, L.M., Stage, D.L., & Cerel, J.
Gender and sexual minorities (GSM) are at a higher risk for victimization, discrimination, and emotional distress. GSM also face unique stressors that contribute to negative mental health outcomes, such as family and interpersonal rejection, ostracism and isolation, and internalized gender and sexual stigma. Suicide attempt survivors often experience similar stigma and isolation after an attempt. However, little is known about the specific experiences of GSM individuals who attempt suicide. Transcripts of interviews with 25 GSM attempt survivors conducted as part of the Live Through This project were analyzed using an interpretive phenomenological approach. Five themes that capture the lived experience of suicidality of the participants were identified in the interviews: (a) intersecting identities, (b) identity concealment, (c) internalized stigma and self-hate, (d) the social environment, and (e) the importance of peer support. Findings highlight the compounding stigma that occurs when individuals identify as both a GSM and a suicide attempt survivor. Implications for clinical work include the need for additional peer support for individuals who maintain the dual identity of GSM and suicide attempt survivor. Moreover, there is a need for mental health, crisis, and support resources and services tailored for GSM individuals that emphasize the importance of peer support in healing and recovery after a suicide attempt and in preventing future suicidal behavior. This important information can help us develop strategies to prevent suicide among the GSM population and to provide support for GSM suicide attempt survivors.