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Monday, October 25, 2004


Suicide attempts among
Filipino gays on the rise

Suicides among the third-sex population in the Philippines have increased dramatically lately.

Dr. Corazon Raymundo, project coordinator of the Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Studies (YAFSS), said local adolescent medicine experts are seeing an increase in suicide incidents among Filipino gays and lesbians.

�Among practitioners, we cannot deny the fact that there has been a continuing rise in suicide incidents among gays and lesbians in the country,� she noted.

Local experts believe the trend could be blamed on the conservative Filipino culture that impels families to prohibit their homosexual children from �coming out of the closet.� This conservatism clashes with the increasing liberalism in society, particularly in the expression of one�s sexuality.

The frustrations and the lack of acceptance of gays and lesbians in their respective families and their immediate social milieu trigger their decision to commit suicide, experts opined.

International studies have shown that there is an inverted relationship between psychosocial problems and the age a person comes out of the closet to declare his or her individual homosexuality.

The studies suggest that the younger a person is, the harder it is to cope with being a homosexual.

Other risk factors identified include atypical gender behavior (femininity), abuse of drugs or alcohol, poor self-regard, family conflicts, rejection by family or friends, depression and low socioeconomic status.

It also showed that young homosexual men are more prone to suicide attempts than young lesbians.

So what predisposes young lesbians and gays to suicide?

Interestingly, it is the support our culture gives to the heterosexual development of young persons through various customs, rituals and guidelines.

Simply put, �the sexuality of the heterosexual child is reflected on, idealized and developed, while the sexuality of the homosexual child is not.�

A YAFSS study showed that a stunning 12 percent of the Filipino youths have had at least one suicide attempt.

Even with this pronounced level of suicide already reported, the study stressed that there is a great likelihood the figures are understated based on what have already been established by previous studies.

�This is because suicide is not something to be proud of and easy to talk about,� the report said.

In most cases, it continued, nonreporting of suicides is due to nonacceptance by their religion, sensitivity to its impact on the family, as well as social and business reasons.

Young people with higher suicidal tendencies, the report cited, are those in unstable unions, whose parents broke up at an early age, in conditions such as being out of school, low educational attainment and those who have experienced working and earning but currently idle and unproductive.

Dr. Erlinda Cuisia Cruz, program secretary of the Philippine Society of Adolescent Medicine Inc., noted that many young people who attempted or committed suicide only want �to attract attention and not really die.�

Unfortunately, the drug combination that a young adult normally ingests to �attract attention� oftentimes leads to death.

More males are successful in committing suicide while most females who attempt suicide, fail, the study said.

Dr. Randy Misael Dellosa, counselor for the Life Change Recovery Center, advised that people should take seriously a family member or friend who tells them of wanting to commit suicide.

Dellosa also noted that when a �popular student� commits suicide, a cluster of suicide attempts among other students might follow.

Based on the data obtained from the World Health Organization (WHO), only 2.5 males out of 100,000 commit suicide while the female ratio is lower at 1.7.

These statistics roughly translate to about 2,000 Filipino males and 1,360 females committed suicide based on the 1993 WHO mortality data on Filipinos.

A WHO report also said the most common behavioral disorder leading to suicide is depression, although the rates are also high for schizophrenia.

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Harold Mejilla, Alan Zoilo Belizario, Jason Fernandez
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