Suicide and Families: What Should We Talk About?

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Quintin is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Quintin and his fellow scholars here.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain to people what I do for school/work. I work with a lot of depressed folk and talk about suicide. I’m also studying the suicide experiences of trans-youth. It doesn’t make for great topics for parties. Usually people nod and don’t say much; then they slowly drift away. Despite the poor fit for party topics, I still talk about it—because it’s important to me; almost invariably I have one tear-filled bonding experience with someone who’s been depressed and desperate for someone to talk to.

Dr. Brene Brown, talks about the power of this connection in her TEDTalk, The Power of Vulnerability. She says, “The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.” After spending hours upon hours listening to trans youth talk about their experiences with depression and suicidality, that quote sticks in my head. These kids are not deviants—they are people desperate to survive. They are desperate to hear someone accept them and struggle with them.

brene brown quote

 

For this reason, I am very glad to have Dr. Guy Diamond as my national mentor for this Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Dr. Diamond is one of the creators of Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT) for depressed and suicidal adolescents (see more here).  My one sentence summation of ABFT is, teens have a right to turn to their parents for support and parents have a responsibility to support their kids. Check out this article if you’d like to learn more about it and how it specifically fits for LGBT families.

quintin mentorDr. Diamond is the director of the Ph.D. program of Couple and Family Therapy and the Family Intervention Science programs at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Dr. Diamond is helping me to find better ways to inform my research and directly put it into practice; he’s also given me many ideas for future projects and some future collaborations!

MooseKleenex perfectly explains the far-too-common experience of depression and suicidality as a teenager:

moose kleenex comic

This scenario—called a double-bind, and meaning that the person is given two contradictory rules—is one I see repeatedly in my own clinical work with suicidal and depressed teenagers. It is also one of the major patterns displayed in the interviews with transgender youth I have been analyzing.