LDS Youth with SSA and suicide

A comprehensive, data-rich place to start:

Why Have Suicides Increased (Even More) After Enormous Efforts to Reduce Them?

Why Have Suicides Increased (Even More) After Enormous Efforts to Reduce Them?

LDS critics often charge that our faith and its policies precipitate and trigger suicide.

To credibly make claims on this topic, one should review the subject comprehensively.  I link many articles and studies below that will better inform readers of the many associated and complicating variables.

Engaging in this complex issue with unsupported allegations — often done by LDS critics — is highly irresponsible.

I’ll open the conversation broadly before answering the critics.  

The USA has far too many suicides, but some other countries are worse:

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Russian and Eastern Europe have extremely high suicide rates.

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Older people, white and American Indian/Alaskan Native men are much more likely to commit suicide than others in the US population.

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In connection with suicides, it’s true Utah has a high rate.  In fact, it often ranks between #3 and #10.  But there is a lot of other information on the subject that, in my view, demonstrates that LDS policies and members are not the primary cause of suicides in Utah.

This entire blog on this subject, written on 1/31/16, is worth reading.  It highlights the problems with recent claims that 32 (some reports were as high as 40) young Latter-day Saints recently committed suicide, as a result of Church LGBTQ+ policy.

About that claim of suicides by LDS teens with same-sex attraction

Key paragraph:

“None other than the Salt Lake Tribune, always anxious to find ways to criticize the Church, went looking for information to corroborate the claim of “32 suicides.

But, in a strange twist, actual journalism took place at the Tribune, and they were forced to report that there is no evidence of that many of suicides:

Trouble is, the number (32 claimed suicides) far exceeds the suicide figures collected by the Utah Department of Health.

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Preliminary figures for November and December show 10 suicides in the Beehive State for people ages 14 to 20, with two more cases “undetermined.”

In fact, the department reports, the overall number of Utah deaths for that age group in those months was 25, including the 10 suicides and two “undetermined” cases, along with 11 in accidents, one by natural causes and one homicide.

“We monitor the numbers [of youth suicides] very closely. We review them every month,” says Teresa Brechlin, who works in the department’s violence- and injury-prevention program. “If we had seen such a huge spike, we would have been investigating it.”

Had there been any mention of the LDS Church’s policy on gays, her department “would have noted that,” Brechlin adds. “We have not seen that at all.”

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Another post — There are no known cases of suicide, or even a plausible claim of such a case, as a result of the November 2015 policy — that demonstrates the utter lack of evidence that the November 2015 policy led to any suicides.  

Other paragraphs make the point that depression and suicide are extremely complex.  No one factor triggers suicide.

Various factors play a role in suicide:

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  1.  University of Utah research shows high altitude linked to depression and suicidal thoughts: 

“People with depression tend to have less efficient energy utilization in certain parts of their brain, like the prefrontal cortex,” said Brent Kious, a U. psychiatry professor and the review’s lead author. This energy roadblock, he said, means people have a tougher time overcoming negative emotions.

It turns out other mountainous states have similarly high suicide rates, with Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico also in the top five and Alaska ranked second, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This trend has earned the Intermountain West a morbid nickname: the suicide belt.

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The U. researchers reviewed several U.S. studies that found suicide rates increased with altitude. One that examined nearly 9,000 suicide deaths in 2006 across 15 states found the suicide rate at high altitudes was three times higher than for those living near sea level. Another study noted a “threshold effect,” where suicide rates increased dramatically between 2,000 and 3,000 feet. Salt Lake City’s altitude is 4,265 feet.

Scientists in other countries have discovered similar associations, the U. review found. Suicide rates in Andalusia, a mountainous region of Spain, were higher than the country’s average, a finding correlated with high altitude. In Saudi Arabia, the prevalence of suicidal thoughts among depressed patients at a high-elevation psychiatric hospital was more than five times higher than at a sea level one.

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These studies have piled up in recent years, Kious said, including several conducted by researchers at the U.  One 2015 study showed how exposure to altitude led to more depression-like behavior in female rats. After a week of thin air, the rats were less likely to struggle in a swim test.

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#2  Ben Shapiro points out recent spike in youth suicides with lack-of-faith connection

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, youth suicide is in the midst of a precipitous and frightening rise. Between 2006 and 2016, suicides by white children between ages 10 and 17 skyrocketed 70%; while black children are less likely than white children to kill themselves, their suicide rate also jumped 77%.

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And as The Blaze points out, CNN reported last year that “the suicide rate among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 rose to a 40-year high in 2015.”

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Male and female rates are rises, but women’s rates are rising more as a percentage.

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A few years back, the trendy explanation was economic volatility — the market crash of 2007-2008 had supposedly created a culture of despair, cured only by suicide. But the economy is booming, and has been growing steadily since 2009.

There are those who blame the rise in drugs as well, particularly opioids — but according to a study from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, drinking, smoking and drug use may be at the lowest levels “seen in decades,” as the Los Angeles Times reports.

There seems to be a crisis of meaning taking place in America. And that crisis of meaning is heavily linked to a decline in religious observance. As The Atlantic observed in 2014, citing a study in Psychological Science:

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The researchers found that this factor of religiosity mediated the relationship between a country’s wealth and the perceived meaning in its citizen’s lives, meaning that it was the presence of religion that largely accounted for the gap between money and meaning.

They analyzed other factors—education, fertility rates, individualism, and social support (having relatives and friends to count on in troubled times)—to see if they could explain the findings, but in the end it came down to religion.

#3:  In addition, population density plays a role.  Rural areas are associated with more suicide.  

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Note:  north central UT is where nearly all Utah residents live.  The highest rates in UT are all in Utah’s south, east along the CO border, or near Coalville and the SW corner of Wyoming.  

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Note the locations of highest suicide rates in Alaska, the state with the highest suicide rate in the USA.  These are rural areas with lots of guns.

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Note the population density of Alaska.  Suicides occur most in very rural areas.  Similar to Utah and other states.

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Focus in on Utah in the map below.  Note where Utah’s highest rates are located.  It’s not along the Wasatch Front.

Highest rates are close to the corner with Wyoming and in the eastern and southern parts of the states.  All very rural.

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A look at Utah’s population density:

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Nearly everyone in Utah lives between North Ogden and Nephi.

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Utah elevation.  The cities in Utah are located in the valleys just west of the mountains.  No surprise the rate of suicide is lower from Brigham City to Nephi.

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#4:  Gun availability is a factor in every state, including Utah:

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Utah doesn’t have the highest gun-ownership percentage.  But those states that rank in the top 1/3 tend to have many more suicides than those states with fewer gun owners.  

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Correlation isn’t causation, but the trend is obvious:

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Americans commit suicide with a firearm about 1/2 the time.  People in other countries almost never kill themselves with a gun.

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Roughly 1/2 of suicides are committed by firearms:

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Homicides are dropping, suicides are rising, and gun availability has consistently grown:

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Kids commonly use a parent’s gun:

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Suicide has significantly contributed to the total of firearm fatalities in recent years: 

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#5:  Race, age, and gender play a role in suicide:

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White men — in pure numerical terms — common suicide much more.

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Alaska Natives have a high rate of suicide attempts.

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Compared to Canadians, the Nunavut Inuit have much, much higher suicide rates.

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Native Alaska males and non-native males are highest:

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Peaks among the young and older:

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Across the USA by age:

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When teens are in prison they are at much higher risk than the adults in the same prison:

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White males are at much higher risk.

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Young people hang themselves much more commonly as a percentage than older people.

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Rich young people are more common than rich older people.  Suicide is less common in the poor countries of the world.

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Suicide compared to other causes of death:

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Education makes a difference:

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#6:  Different professions and job environment are associated with higher suicide rates:

Young people are committing suicide at alarming and growing rates.   However, more than young people are dying.

“It’s not just young people. According to Tom Simon, a CDC report author, “We know that overall in the US, we’re seeing increases in suicide rates across all age groups.” As of 2016, suicide levels were at 30-year highs.

Area of employment is also associated with risk factors.

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Those in the military facing combat had higher suicide rates:

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Working outside and installing/repairing things is stressful.

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We’ll focus more specifically on Utah below.

Other Rocky Mountains states and Alaska have higher rates than Utah.  Not all studies find the same results, but they are similar.  Utah is #5 in the U of Utah study below:

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#5 in this study:

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Utah Department of Health reported Utah is ranked #7:

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This link to 2017 CDC data ranks Utah #6.  

2/3 of adolescents who committed suicide were involved with the criminal justice system.  And 90% had mental illness.

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In conclusion, suicide is complex.  Please understand the data before wading into the debate.



Additional and applicable thoughts:

This study — 5 Reasons why Mormons are Happier — shares this about suicides:

“I then asked Hunter about conflicting research that shows that even though Mormons in general rank as very happy, Utah (which is nearly 70% Mormon) has a high suicide rate and a lot of women on antidepressants.

How do those two facts square with Utah as one of the happiest places in the USA?  “Research shows that some of the happiest places in the world also have the highest suicide rates,” Hunter explains.

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“Some people think that this paradox is explained by relative comparisons of utility. People compare their happiness to other people’s. It may feel particularly painful to be unhappy when everyone around you is happy.

There’s also a lot of research that talks about elevation and suicide.” (See here for a brief discussion of the role of altitude and mountains in suicide rates.)

Same-Sex Attraction (SSA), Sexual Fluidity, and the LDS Church

To start, perhaps the best resource is this:

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Elder Christofferson’s brother, Tom, is gay.   Watch this Apostle discuss the authentic feelings LGBT people experience in this segment: “Feelings are Real and Authentic“.

Elder Christofferson is further welcoming in this video: “Is There a Place for Me?

Please watch many, many videos about this topic.  You’ll be glad you did.  You’ll learn a lot.  Many videos can be found here.


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Ty Mansfield is the co-founder  of Northern Lights. Ty has written many articles, book chapters, and has published at least 2 books on the subject.

Ty was interviewed by Laura Hales on the LDS Perspectives Podcast:  Homosexuality and the Gospel

I watched this presentation (given in 2014) of Ty, and appreciated his perspectives. In addition to sharing his experiences and providing many helpful definitions, Ty shared published and widely known (among those in the field) data  regarding LGBTQ issues.

Lisa Diamond’s (who is also lesbian) studies are specifically discussed around the 20:25 mark.

For several minutes Ty cited Lisa Diamond, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah.  Ty uses the exact same data and slides that Dr. Diamond uses in her own presentations.  Dr. Diamond is a recognized expert in sexual fluidity, especially among women.  Dr. Diamond gave this lecture — Sexual Fluidity in Men and Women — in 2013 at Cornell.

Dr. Diamond’s data below:

According to a 2002 study, 14% of all women and 7% of all men reported some level of Same-Sex Attraction (SSA).

Among that group reporting some level of SSA, most men (79%) and nearly all women (95%) reported attraction “mostly other sex.”  You see, this isn’t exclusive SSA.

In fact, only 21% of men and 5% of women with SSA were exclusively attracted to the same sex.  In other words, almost no women reported being exclusive lesbians.

Change in exclusive same-sex attraction in the U.S. population over the years (2002-2010).  Never 3% for men and never 1.5% for women.

More people report being bisexual (especially women on the right side), but the number of exclusive SSA (in black) is fairly constant.

Much of this data surprised me.  I think the reason I was surprised is because this topic is so political and only an extreme view of this issue is all that is acceptable to the media and “polite” society. The data show a much more complete picture.

The vast majority of those with SSA prefer sexual relationships with the opposite sex (despite SSA).  That is, those with SSA don’t prefer same-sex relationships. That is what current research overwhelmingly and consistently shows.

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Dr. Diamond, points out fluidity or change even among those who at one point report they only desire the same sex.  Even folks who claim to be “strict” heterosexuals — when given the private opportunity — report attractions to the same sex.

Dr. Diamond in early 2018 discusses gender fluidity.  Many people seem to have an openness to what isn’t their “standard thing”, says Dr. Diamond.

“A consistent pattern of attraction (heterosexuality or homosexuality) doesn’t necessarily rule out the capacity to have an experience that runs counter to that pattern.”

So, human sexuality is complex.  It’s not as simple as some would say:  “I was born that way. An entire group of people were born this way and we don’t change.”  Those two statements are simply not true. We shouldn’t ignore the data above.

We shouldn’t ignore the data, but neither should we be mean.  Fortunately, we no longer persecute LGBT folks. We should love and support all people, no matter the differences between us.

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An article, highlighting the sexual fluidity among gays and even certain “heterosexuals”.  Rigid labels need to be relaxed. “Born that way” hardly communicates the real complexity of SSA and human sexuality.

David Matheson is an author and psychotherapist who runs the Center for Gender Wholeness in Holladay, Utah.  David has worked with gay male clients for 20 years on the East and West Coasts, and more recently Utah.

His clients are those — mostly from a wide range of religious backgrounds (but some non-religious) — who no longer wish to be attracted to the same sex and no longer want the gay lifestyle.

David provides therapy to SSA men whose goal is to shift in attraction toward females.  His approach is ethical.  He knows he can’t help those who don’t want to change.   Many change.  Some don’t.  He always leaves on good terms with his clients, no matter the outcome.  No shaming.

FAIR Examination 7: Therapy and same-sex attraction–David Matheson

I believe our LDS leaders have long followed the correct pattern: encourage families and love all people, no matter their differences.  Our leaders don’t hate gays.  And they and LDS members are getting better at communicating on this topic.

The Gospel is true.  We all struggle with different aspects, but will be happier if we do our (flawed) best to live the restored Gospel.

Insightful presentation by William Duncan following the Prop 8 contest in California:

Mormon and Gay

Stop by:


A talk today by Elder Oaks.  He affirmed the Church’s position on the family.


The 3 Mormons tackle a “touchy” issue with grace and gusto!

This gay man says he can be both gay and a believing member.

Lots of LGBT-related LDS videos here. 

Ty Mansfield shares one perspective:  “Mormons Can Be Gay, They Just Can’t Do Gay? ”

Faith Crisis Prevention and Testimony

Wonderful story with lots of wisdom.  Dan Conway in the UK shares his experiences:


The first non-Mormon speaker at a FAIR conference:

“Seeing the Light: Parallels in Mormon Conversion and De-Conversions Stories – Rosemary Avance”


Thoughts about anti-Mormon approaches by Martin Tanner:

Michael Ash discusses what is and what is not an anti-Mormon:

Michael Ash discusses the different impact of anti-Mormon arguments on various people:

Preparation and prevention is important.  Some problems in life are unavoidable.  But some are preventable.

According to this blogger, consider reviewing 15 books before (not after) having a faith crisis. Probably everyone reading this has a friend or family struggling with these issues. Many with the Church’s position on LGBT issues.

I personally wouldn’t buy all 15 books. Mostly because I’m frugal. But I would suggest watching lots of free YouTube videos on these same topics.


I own 1-3 and #7 from the linked list. I think book #3 will give you the quickest snapshot of the major issues. In-context answers are provided by the LDS-faithful authorities in that field.

#7 is huge cuz it defends the Book of Mormon witnesses. Critics always seize on 4-6 people:  very angry ex-Mormons or other critics with axes to grind.   All the witnesses stayed true to their testimony and themselves gave 200+ first-hand accounts.

I wrote another blog on Same-Sex Attraction here.

All of the 15 books listed have authors I’ve watched on YouTube (for free) on their topics.  The book list points to the most controversial topics.  Virtually all of the controversies dissolve away, once you see all the context.

I’ve long wondered what would have happened to a few people I know (now inactive atheist/agnostics) if they had studied these issues in a faithful way before their crisis. I imagine crisis would have been averted…


Great resources:

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FAIR MORMON is a great place to go for content.   LDS scholars provide insight on topics from blacks to polygamy and everything in between.

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I think getting good information is key. The LDS Perspectives Podcast is a wonderful and effective way to do that.

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LDS Truth Claims YouTube channel is another wonderful source for faithful content.  Brett McDonald does a great job!

Blake Ostler

Blake Ostler is another awesome source.  You can read his book or listen to his podcasts here.

Blake further discusses the topic of testimony: spiritual experiences as the basis for belief and commitment.


Is a testimony based purely on feelings?  Nope.

Michael Ash discusses faith and doubt:

More from Michael Ash:

Cognitive dissonance: