The Board of Affirmation: LGBTQ Mormons, Families & Friends
In January of 2018, the Executive Committee and Board of Affirmation held a strategic planning meeting wherein suicide prevention and trauma awareness was identified as the organization’s primary spirituality and wellness goals. To this end, the Financial Committee within Affirmation agreed to approach the LDS Foundation with a grant request specifically for funding of QPR suicide prevention training for members of Affirmation. This spring the requested grant was awarded in the sum of $25,000. Currently, several Affirmation Board Members are being trained in QPR suicide prevention and will now be available to give specific training to Affirmation members and leaders around the world.
Important new research that supports Affirmation’s recognition of this issue was recently conducted by Dr. Brian Simmons at the University of Georgia. Dr. Simmons study specifically addresses negative LDS beliefs regarding sexual or gender identity and how they are impacting LGBTQ+ Mormons. Simmons’ data indicates “that study participants overwhelmingly perceived LDS teachings, messages, and experiences associated with their gender or sexual identity to be harmful.”
Perhaps the most shocking data Simmons found was that, “overall, nearly three-quarters (73.4%) of respondents would have likely met criteria for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. This estimation of PTSD prevalence among study respondents is ten times greater than the approximately 8% for the general U.S. adult population.”
These statistics are sadly no surprise to many who work within LDS LGBTQ+ circles of outreach. For decades we have witnessed members of our community suffering. As research continues to more fully elucidate what our LDS & LGBTQ+ population is experiencing, we ask how can any of us morally ignore such a profound risk factor in any suicide prevention approach? Hosts of LGBTQ+ Mormons are experiencing trauma in our religious spaces and it is placing members of our community at higher risk.
We recognize that this risk factor is one of many. Suicide is the most complex of all human behavior. Time and again studies show that suicide is a multi-determined behavior that defies any simple or single cause explanation. However, because we are an organization for LGBTQ+ individuals who reside within a heightened risk factor, we cannot ignore the sheer importance of suicide prevention and trauma awareness in our LGBTQ+ community.
We understand it takes a community to save lives. QPR training recognizes that “to the degree suicide is an index of community disorganization and despair, so too are effective suicide prevention programs a reflection of an integrated, educated, and caring community.” QPR is an internationally recognized suicide prevention program designed to teach diverse groups within our community to recognize the warning signs, clues, and suicidal communications of people in trouble and then to act vigorously to prevent a possible tragedy.
QPR Gatekeeper training is a form of community first aid, saving lives much like CPR or the Heimlich maneuver. Because of this, QPR does not require formal counseling or medical training to be effective. QPR is intended to offer hope through positive action.
There will be many within our community who will look at this award with suspicion. We hear those concerns and want to recognize that many will not be comfortable with Affirmation receiving this grant award. It is true that there are deep wounds within our community. We are working diligently to help heal those that we can. For far too many, those wounds can never be mended.
As an organization, Affirmation feels best positioned to be the first contact for those in the LGBTQ+ community who reside with fundamental risk factors, particularly the LDS & LGBTQ+ intersection. Research has shown time and again that those in the greatest need of services will not call hotlines or seek therapeutic services on their own. Peers, family, and friends are often in the best position to make an intervention. It is our desire to build and strengthen our community so we can all recognize and refer persons who are making suicidal communications out of despair.
Affirmation appreciates that the grant given for suicide prevention and education from the LDS Foundation is recognition of a significant problem. Indeed, Elder Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve, who participates on the Utah Governor’s community suicide task force, recently said, “We’re committed to doing all we can do, not only in our congregations of Latter-day Saints throughout the state, but in working with all of you in every mode — in church, school, society. We must all come together to face this issue.”
Similarly, Affirmation extends an invitation to LDS Church leaders to seek established resources and education models that can help raise awareness and prevention. We invite the LDS church to give suicide prevention and education training to stake and ward leaders, particularly those who work with youth. We encourage suicide prevention to be spoken of openly at ward and branch meetings. The LDS Church is providing online resources that can be helpful, but additional face to face training is needed specifically for local leaders.
Utah Senator Orrin Hatch has joined the chorus that is asking for attention, awareness, and change to happen regarding suicide in Utah. Specifically stating, “The suicide epidemic has touched all sectors of our society, but the problem is particularly acute among LGBT youth. No one should ever feel less because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. LGBT youth deserve our unwavering love and support. They deserve our validation and the assurance that not only is there a place for them in this society, but that it is far better off because of them.”
It seems that national, state, and LDS Church leaders all agree that something must be done. As an organization, Affirmation is implementing concrete action and awareness at the grassroots level within our communities worldwide in suicide prevention. QPR trainings for Affirmation members will begin July 20th, 2018 at our International Conference in Salt Lake City, UT.