Greetings! My name is Kendall McKenna and I am an author of M/M Erotic Romance novels and novellas. Welcome to my blog, as we recognize Suicide Prevention Week.
Despite the serious nature of this topic, those of us involved in the blog hop are trying to write posts that ease the stigma, and foster understanding. We’ll quote facts and figures, and we’ll tell stories guaranteed to evoke strong emotion. To balance this out, we’re offering giveaways, along the way. The book I’m offering (The Final Line) at the end of my post has a link to the topic of suicide and its prevention, but it’s still an engaging read. That’s what I hope you all find this blog hop to be; relevant but engaging.
As I mentioned in my introduction, I write love stories that feature gay men. My specialty is writing authentic characters who are U.S. Marines. My books are filled with complex and layered stories, timely issues, and action sequences, including realistic combat scenes. What this means is, the majority of my characters belong to TWO groups that are at extremely high risk for suicide. LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer) teens and combat veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom are both at high risk, and I’m going to discuss the issues faced by both groups.
I don’t know about you, but I hated being a teenager. I was a smart, tall and attractive blond, athletic, part of the cool crowd, and from an intact home. I was (am) straight, had enough self-esteem to resist peer pressure to engage in drugs and sexual activity, stood up to bullies, and I STILL despised my life while in high school. It is absolutely no surprise to me that gay teens would feel as though the only way to end their pain and hopelessness would be to kill themselves. LGBTQ teens face rejection from family and friends, physical and emotional torment, homelessness, confusion, shame, exposure to HIV/AIDS, and confinement for gay conversion therapy (which is absolutely ineffective and therefore amounts to torture).
What this means:
- LGBTQ teens are FIVE TIMES MORE LIKELY to commit suicide than the general population
- Bullying of LGBT youth has been shown to be a contributing factor in many suicides
- The Family Acceptance Project’s research has demonstrated that LGBT youths who experience high levels of rejection from their families during adolescence are EIGHT TIMES MORE LIKELY to have attempted suicide, and SIX TIMES more likely to report high levels of depression (which is a contributing factor in the risk of suicide)
- Parental acceptance, and even neutrality, with regard to a child’s sexual orientation can bring down the attempted suicide rate
- The Suicide Prevention Resource Center estimated that between 30 and 40% of LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide
If that information isn’t enough to drop your jaw, consider the fact that the U.S. government launched two wars, in order to make financial fortunes through the private companies they own. Billions of dollars have been spent on the tools of war (weapons, munitions, bases, vehicles, drones, infrastructure restoral), while only a fraction of that has been spent to pay troops, and to provide post-combat mental and physical health treatment and support. The Department of Defense (DOD) cannot claim ignorance about the after-effects of combat on troops. It was Vietnam veterans who led to the understanding of PTS (Post Traumatic Stress), the development of the diagnosis in the 1990s, and how the syndrome contributed to homelessness, violence, and suicide among those veterans.
Twelve years later, U.S. military personnel, in 2013, are committing suicide at a rate of 22 PER DAY. This means, someone who put their life at risk in the belief they were protecting our country, commits suicide every 56 minutes.
I’m not talking about veterans who have been discharged, either. In 2012, suicide among active duty personnel hit an all-time high of 349. In February 2013 the DOD reported that MORE ACTIVE DUTY PERSONNEL ARE KILLING THEMSELVES, THAN ARE DYING IN COMAT (295 Americans were killed in Afghanistan in 2012). By all accounts, these numbers are underestimated. As best as anyone can tell, for every U.S. service member killed in combat, 25 commit suicide.
I don’t mean to sound as though the Veterans Administration isn’t trying to help. They established a suicide prevention hotline that has successfully prevented 26,000 military suicides. Except, that means more than 26,000 veterans are experiencing suicidal tendencies.
Now, not all veterans who commit suicide have seen combat. The three primary factors that appear to contribute to this problem are PTS, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), and desperate financial problems. Notice, I just brought us full circle: billions of dollars were invested in the infrastructure of war, while the people who put their lives on the line for their convictions (and by extension, our safety and security), don’t make enough money (despite receiving housing subsidies and free health care) to survive without food stamps. Deployment frequently results in their houses being foreclosed on, and despite what the banks have been ordered to do, accommodation is rarely made to help them keep their homes.
I was working in law enforcement in the 1990s when the PTS diagnosis swept the mental health community. I was a crises response counselor, which meant I responded to situations where the potential for emotional trauma to our own staff was likely. Officer involved shootings, the death of one of our own personnel (violent or natural), close calls, incidents of extraordinary violence involving civilians, or extremely sympathetic victims (children). It was, and is, recognized that law enforcement and military culture, along with the types of personalities that enter both professions, cause these groups to be at higher risk because they are the least likely to reach out for help.
Our veterans tend to be strong personalities with tendencies toward independence. They loath weakness and will do nearly anything to avoid even the appearance of it. They’re generally not talkative, especially regarding their emotions, because emotion is viewed as weakness. They do not seek out, or ask for help, believing it’s a sign of weakness. As group, they’re more comfortable with violence than most of us, and usually have easy access to firearms.
If there is any group that mistakenly views mental health issues as stigmatized, it’s the military. It’s considered unacceptable to have a mental health issue, let alone seek help for it. They must be strong; they must handle their problems alone to prove their strength.
Both of these groups need our help. We must ensure our own words and actions don’t cast mental health issues in a bad light. It’s critical that we be accepting of these groups as individuals. Education, intervention, and treatment for individuals contemplating suicide must be plentiful, easy to access, and affordable.
To learn more, or to help combat the issue of high rates of suicide in LGBTQ youth:
To learn more, or to obtain help for military personnel at risk for suicide:
- Veterans Crisis Line
- Military Crisis Line
- Veterans Affairs Mental Health Programs and Resources
- Vets Adopt Pets
Since I write books about U.S. Marines who have seen combat, I have to write characters who deal with PTS and TBI. I am currently revising a book, Waves Break My Fall, for re-release. I am expanding the main character’s battle with PTS to include suicidal thoughts. However, I released a book this past July that features a character with severe PTS. While he doesn’t contemplate suicide, he does experience fatalistic thinking, which can accompany or even precede thoughts of suicide. This book is titled The Final Line, and I’m offering a chance to win an e-book copy.
To read more about The Final Line (The Recon Diaries Book #2), you can go here.
Click below for a chance to enter to win an ebook copy of my title
The Final Line
If you haven’t already, you can also enter to win the blog hop grand prize