Tag archives: Suicide

Suicide Risk and Gender Transition: The Facts

by Jennifer Bauwens

July 23, 2021

As a graduate student in my early twenties, I volunteered on a suicide hotline. The calls I received while working on the hotline certainly included the suicidal person, but they also came from concerned family members, friends, and coworkers.  When advising people who wanted to keep someone safe, it was essential to give them tools not only to speak with the person of concern, but to also underscore that the person they seek to help has a choice in the matter.  Of course, the goal was to save lives, but we wanted to communicate to the helping party that, ultimately, they are not responsible for another person’s decision should their loved one choose to follow through with their threat of suicide.

While suicide is a very serious issue, it doesn’t mean that the helper should be controlled by the threat.  For example, after years of counseling with domestic violence survivors, I can recall countless stories of women who were told by an abusive spouse or partner, “if you leave me, I’ll commit suicide.”  Again, suicidal thoughts and gestures should be assessed and evaluated, and underlying causes need to be properly addressed. However, tying such requests to expressions of suicide can prove to be, in some cases, controlling. That’s what I communicated to domestic violence survivors who felt demands placed on them to sacrifice their safety, and in some instances, their lives, because of the threats expressed by the person abusing them.      

Unfortunately, the “threat” of suicide is what is being used against responsible leaders trying to protect children from harmful and often unknown risks associated with gender transition procedures. In the wake of the news that a federal judge in Arkansas blocked that state’s Save Children from Experimentation Act (which would protect children from receiving unnecessary and invasive medical interventions aimed at treating a psychological condition characterized by confusion over one’s biological sex) from going into effect, we’ve seen a resurgence in claims of the risk of suicide, without reference or examination to a range of likely underlying and co-occurring conditions.

When appealing to the judge several days ago to temporarily enjoin Arkansas’ law, Chase Strangio of the ACLU claimed: “These families, like hundreds of others across the state, are terrified … There has already been a spike in suicide attempts since this legislation was passed.” Court filings read: “For some transgender youth, the prospect of losing this critical medical care, even before the legislation is in effect, is unbearable … In the weeks after the bill passed, at least six transgender adolescents in Arkansas attempted suicide.” 

Within the ACLU’s claims, there is no reference to the other factors that might affect these adolescents’ decisions to attempt suicide. We are simply led to believe that legislative decisions alone are prompting suicidal thoughts in these teenagers.

Similar assertions implying that this legislation will only increase the risk of suicide were sprinkled throughout other’s reports on the issue.  Some involved in the case went on to argue that these medical practices “save lives” and are necessary for the transgender population that tends to be vulnerable to depression and suicide.

The high suicide rate in the transgender identifying population, in fact, has been repeatedly given as the reason to support treatments that stop puberty in developing children, to start kids on a lifetime supply of the opposite-sex’s hormones, and to allow surgeries that remove healthy sexual organs. These claims are misplaced, and frankly, dangerous.

That said, suicide is a real threat, and it should be addressed. The underlying causes that are leading to this threat should also be investigated so that this population can be properly treated. But, at this time, there is no evidence that suicidality abates after transgender medical procedures are performed. To the contrary, the available evidence shows a rise in completed suicides following medical interventions. Why? Clearly, the real psychological pain behind the suicidality is not being addressed by medical interventions.

The problem here is that suicide should never be used as a tool, by any group, to strong-arm policymakers and the psychological and medical communities into both allowing and providing questionable practices that have somehow gained a monopoly on “standards of care” for gender dysphoria.  Especially when those practices involve onboarding children, who have not fully developed physiologically, psychologically, and neurologically, to potentially irreversible and sterilizing treatments. 

In response, public policy makers should focus on protecting citizens, particularly vulnerable children. Further, policies that inform public health and safety should be firmly grounded in solid empirical research, such as:

  • There is no evidence that transgender medical treatments reduce the psychological distress and mental health issues associated with gender dysphoria.
  • There is no long-term investigation into the psychological and physiological consequences of transgender medicine performed on children.

The credible and available evidence indicates:

  • There are significant health risks to transgender medicine. Some of these include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, & blood clots.
  • In a 30-year longitudinal study, gender reassignment surgery patients had a 19 times higher rate of completed suicide than the general population.

A few known underlying conditions that are not addressed by transgender medicine:

  • A recent study showed 45 percent of transgender identifying persons experienced childhood sexual abuse.
  • Higher rates of substance abuse have been found in this population by comparison to the general population.

For more information on this topic, see FRC’s issue analysis.

Jennifer Bauwens is Director of the Center for Family Studies at Family Research Council.

Do Gender Transition Procedures Prevent Suicide?

by Family Research Council

March 24, 2021

Transgender advocates often claim that gender transition procedures are the cure to suicide risk among transgender-identifying youth, and that legislation restricting gender transition procedures on minors causes suicide. But a closer look at suicide studies (see pp. 11-12) reveals several problems with those claims:

  • The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey published by the National Center for Transgender Equality did find elevated risk of suicide among people who identify as transgender during their lifetime:
    • Forty percent (40%) have attempted suicide in their lifetime, nearly nine times the rate in the U.S. population (4.6%).
    • Seven percent (7%) attempted suicide in the past year—nearly 12 times the rate in the U.S. population (0.6%).
  • However:
    • This did not account for untreated mental illness, perhaps because transgender advocates resist any association between gender incongruity and mental illness; and
    • This was drawn from a “convenience sample” (an online poll of volunteers).
    • A survey that used more scientific methods, the California Health Interview Survey, found that among “highly gender non-conforming” youth, only 3% of girls and 2% of boys reported having attempted suicide.

Furthermore, although such statistics are often cited as evidence that minors should pursue gender transition, these numbers do not prove causality. Even if the elevated rates are legitimate, the data often do not indicate when the suicidal thoughts or actions occurred—before or after gender transition.

  • For example, a 2020 article in the journal Pediatrics examined the link between taking puberty-blocking hormones and nine different mental health outcomes. Although it found that those who received puberty blockers had a lower rate of “lifetime suicidal ideation,” it also found that those who received puberty blockers were twice as likely to have had a suicide attempt resulting in inpatient care (i.e., hospitalization) in the last 12 months as those who did not (45.5% vs. 22.8%). (Neither finding rose to the level of statistical significance in the study.)
  • A 2011 Swedish study (in which the authors were able to examine the medical records of every person in Sweden who underwent gender reassignment surgery over a 30-year period) found a number of physical and mental health problems were elevated among this population, including a rate of completed suicides among those who completed transition that was 19 times higher than the general population.
  • A comprehensive review of the literature on the subject by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services declared about the Swedish study that “we cannot exclude therapeutic interventions as a cause of the observed excess morbidity and mortality.” In other words, not only does gender reassignment surgery (and other “therapeutic interventions” such as hormone therapy) not demonstrably benefit those who identify as transgender (including by reducing their risk of suicide)—it may actively harm them, and increase that risk instead.

When you combine these facts with findings that the “desistance” rates (the rate at which transgender-identifying adolescents cease to identify as the opposite sex) range from 70 percent to 97.8 percent in biological males, and from 50 percent to 88 percent in biological females, the picture becomes clear. For most transgender-identifying youth, puberty is the cure, not the cause, of gender incongruence. Even among those who continue to identify as transgender, there is evidence that transitioning causes more harm than good, at least as measured by rates of suicide attempts resulting in hospitalization and rates of completed suicide. Furthermore, these studies include populations from Sweden and California, two jurisdictions that are arguably very supportive of gender transition policies.

For a full report on the dangers of gender transition procedures, see FRC’s Do Not Sterilize Children: Why Physiological Gender Transition Procedures for Minors Should Be Prohibited

I loved that boy. I hated that deed:” Della Reese

by Robert Morrison

August 13, 2014

She was on a late night talk show in 1977. Actress Della Reese was being interviewed by Johnny Carson on NBC’s Tonight Show. I thought I was seeing a re-run because the host and Miss Reese were talking about the hit TV series, Chico and the Man.

This was shortly after the suicide of Freddie Prinze, the talented comedian who starred in the series. But, no, they came around to the subject. And Johnny, predictably, went on and on about the comic genius and the great tragic loss of Freddie Prinze. Della Reese spoke authoritatively and with finality. “I loved that boy, I hated that deed.” She would go on to become a familiar fixture in millions of American homes as “Tess,” the motherly figure in the popular series, Touched by an Angel.

I identified strongly with what this sensible woman said at the time. A few years later, I was tasked at the U.S. Department of Education with working on suicide among youth. As a project officer during the Reagan administration, it was my responsibility to study this troubling issue in American society. As part of my duties, I had a briefing book given to us by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.

That large binder included suicide rates for many ethnic and demographic groups in American society. At that time, I was familiar with the rates for various sub-groups, from Ashkenazi Jews to Zuni Indians.

When I thumbed through the binder, I noted that the suicide rate for Black women was exceedingly low. Almost zero. Could this be a misprint? I called CDC to check on the figures.

We’ve noticed that too,” said the desk officer in Atlanta, “we call it the BFPF.”

What’s that?” I pressed.

The Black Female Protective Factor — they’re very religious.”

Suicide experts going back to Emile Durkheim in the Nineteenth Century have noted the correlation between religiosity and suicide. Those who regularly worship have far lower suicide rates than the unchurched.

Those who join clubs and activities, too, are far less liable to take their own lives. So Volunteer Fire Departments, Rotary, scouting, 4-H, Anglers’ Clubs, etc., can be lifesavers as well.

In the Nineteenth Century, French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville studied American society and institutions. In his classic Democracy in America, Tocqueville wrote about Americans’ “genius for association.” We love to join clubs, it seems.

We cannot read of tragic suicides — like that of Robin Williams this week — without wondering why. One reason may just be the active efforts to suppress religion in America. How can it hurt to get rid of public prayer and open acknowledgment of God? Increased suicide rates is one way it hurts.

Let’s pray that Americans gain a greater understanding of the value to all of society of religious freedom. It used to be said: “The family that prays together stays together. “That was true in the 1950s. It’s true now. It might also be said: Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord.

Ted Kennedys Widow on Massachusetts’ Death with Dignity ballot initiative

by Cathy Ruse

October 31, 2012

Five years after the state of Oregon legalized doctor-assisted suicide, the Center for Ethics in Health Care at Oregon Health & Science University conducted research on how the law was being utilized. Their findings, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, were shocking. They found that nearly 90 percent of people who ask their doctors for help in killing themselves later change their minds, and that what motivated most seriously ill people who asked was fear of pain — a fear that might be misplaced.

In one example, a man just 47-years old with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, sought suicide because he was scared to die like his father, who had died from colon cancer in great pain without adequate medication. But when he learned that ALS does not cause a painful death, he gave up thoughts of suicide.

Last week Victoria Reggie Kennedy, widow of Senator Ted Kennedy, published an op-ed against Question 2, the so-called Death with Dignity initiative on the Massachusetts ballot.

In it she blasts the measure, saying it is not about bringing family together to make end of life decisions but is intended to exclude family members from the actual decision-making process to guard against patients being pressured to end their lives prematurely.

Most of us wish for a good and happy death, with as little pain as possible, surrounded by loved ones, perhaps with a doctor and/or clergyman at our bedside, she writes, [b]ut under Question 2, what you get instead is a prescription for up to 100 capsules, dispensed by a pharmacist, taken without medical supervision, followed by death, perhaps alone.

In reflecting on her own husbands death, she closes this way: I know we were blessed. I am fully aware that not everyone will have the same experience we did. But if Question 2 passes I cant help but feel were sending the message that theyre not even entitled to a chance. A chance to have more time with their loved ones. A chance to have more dinners and sing more songs. A chance for more kisses and more love. A chance to be surrounded by family or clergy or a doctor when the end does come. That seems cruel to me. And lonely. And sad.

Living Will as Suicide Note

by Cathy Ruse

October 5, 2009

Read this story of a poor young woman, just 26 years old, who was depressed about not being able to have a child. Shes now dead, thanks to her Living Will which forbade emergency medical treatment to save her life after she swallowed antifreeze.

Whether the doctors were actually forbidden from saving her life or not, I dont know mightnt her depression have impacted her competency to refuse live-saving treatment? — but they believed they were and the result is now irrevocable.

The story calls this the first case of a Living Will used to commit suicide. How can we know this? Perhaps its only the first obvious case.

The point here: these are powerful legal documents, and Congress is poised to create a government-run health care system which will pay doctors to encourage patients to execute them. Think of the perils. People who are sick or in pain are inherently vulnerable. They are also often depressed. It would not take much to persuade them to sign away their right to future care. Remember, the Hemlock Society drafted this section of the heatlh care bill. I wonder what they think of the death of poor Kerrie Woolterton.

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