DU’s and Denver’s Reaction to Recent Suicides

The recent string of suicides of young gay males has not gone unnoticed at the University of Denver or in the Denver community.  Today, Thomas Walker, Associate Director of the Center for Multicultural Excellence and LGBTIQA and Social Justice Initiatives Coordinator was interviewed by 9news, Denver’s NBC affiliate.

Check out Thomas’ video and the associated story:

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DENVER – The recent suicides of five gay teens has brought national attention to the issue of harassment and bullying of gay students on many campuses.

An estimated one-third of all suicides among younger populations involve people in the gay community.

“We are seeing shocking numbers of suicides and suicidal thoughts,” says Hope Wisneski, Denver Executive Director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Organization.

Just in the last month, 5 young men, as young as 13 years old, have taken their own lives.

The most recent was 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University Student.

Prosecutors say his roommate and another student streamed live images of Clementi having intimate relations with another man. Clementi jumped off a bridge three days later.

“I felt bad that he thought that was his only option,” says Dr. Thomas Walker, Associate Director of GLBT Services at the University of Denver.

But, he says, these numbers are nothing new.

“Unfortunately, students, young people, even older folks, hurting themselves or taking their own lives is something that happens more often than we’d like for it to,” says Walker.

“We know in Colorado that we have recently surveyed 300 participants, 40 percent of which said they have seriously considered suicide,” says Wisneski.

Wisneski also says that 70 percent of teenagers have reported feeling unsafe at school.

“There are resources that are available. If you’re struggling, it can get better. It can be better,” says Walker. “Here on our own campus I have a number of people contact me asking how they can help and what they can do to help people who are hurting,” says Walker.

“People are starting to realize and really honor and acknowledge how hard the world can be for some people and how hard our society makes it for people to be who they are. And when we learn about the lack of acceptance out there and learn about people being bullied to the point they take their own lives, I hope that it allows people to take a second and stand back and really understand how much it impacts us,” says Wisneski.

For those seeking more information or help, visit http://www.glbtcolorado.org, or contact the Colorado Anti-Violence Program at 303-852-5094.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

As well, the University of Denver sent the following email out to the DU community today:

To the DU Community:

As has been reported in the national and local press, there have a spate of youth suicides in the past few weeks by people targeted with specific or ongoing anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.  A just released national survey report in which DU students, staff and faculty participated (www.campuspride.org) sadly documents that the exclusion, intimidation, and devaluation of LGBTIQ classmates and colleagues is not occasional or uncommon at campuses across the United States.

The University of Denver is fully committed to an active engagement of all of our community members. Our diversity of perspectives, experiences, and identities is not just tolerated at DU, it is celebrated as creating the intellectual vibrancy that is fundamental to the University’s mission (see www.du.edu/chancellor/diversityStatement.html). There is no place at DU for words or actions that disrespect, discriminate, harass, or otherwise diminish or endanger others. We therefore call on our entire campus community – DU students, faculty, staff, and administrators – to refrain from behavior that excludes or intimidates others whatever their identities, and to intervene to prevent such behavior if it threatens to occur.

We do have resources at the University that are available for you or someone you know who needs support in the face of recent events, and we encourage you to use them. They include:

•    The Center for Multicultural Excellence (CME) supports broad equity and LGBTIQ & Ally specific programs and campus organizations, including Queer & Ally (Q&A) trainings. Multicultural Center (Asbury & University), (303)871-4614; www.du.edu/lgbtiqa.

•    DU’s Health & Counseling Center offers group and one-on-one counseling to address specific issues and/or improve the overall academic experience. Ritchie Center 3rd Fl North, (303)871-3853; www.du.edu/duhealth/counseling.

•    GVESS provides prevention and response training and resources for those affected by interpersonal violence, including sexual assault. Nelson Hall 103, (303)871-2220,www.du.edu/studentlife/Sexual_Assault.

•    The Office of the Chaplain is available to the entire DU community regardless of faith affiliation, or no affiliation at all. Driscoll South 29, (303)871-4488;www.du.edu/studentlife/religiouslife.

•    Campus Safety partners with campus constituents to prevent and respond to situations that put the campus community at risk.  In emergencies, dial 911 and then (303)841-3000. General inquiries (303)871-2334; www.du.edu/campussafety.

As the new academic year continues, we invite you to take advantage of these resources and the wide array of campus programs and activities to learn about the rich diversity of our University of Denver community.

Sincerely,

Robert Coombe    Gregg Kvistad

Chancellor            Provost

Hopefully, the situation for everyone will improve – we can all strive to be more understanding, welcoming, accepting, inclusive.

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