by Luiz Correa
On September 25, 2018, Affirmation Brazil held its first Symposium on Prevention of LGBT Suicide. They had the support of the Consejal Soninha Francine, who gave them the auditorium of the São Paulo City Council to host the event. They had the participation of the civil society that was present for this talk, among them students of psychology, medicine, magistrates, doctors, mothers who had experienced a suicide attempt in their family.
The exchange of many personal and professional stories allowed all to reflect on suicide, a serious issue that remains a taboo in society. The discussions were held respectfully and with a great awareness of the cause of preventing suicide.
The participants who led the event were linked to various LGBTQ+ causes in Brazil or health professionals.
Dr. Milton Roberto Furst Crenitte
A geriatrician representing the NGO “Eternamente Soy”, an NGO that works with LGBT senior citizens, Dr. Milton Roberto Furst Crenitte spoke about the prejudice that prevails against elderly people and made worse if they are LGBTQ+. Most do not have close relatives or children, causing them to be lonely. This, in addition to physical and emotional issues, too often leads them to try to end their lives. Often, elderly people are forced back into the closet in order to live with a little dignity in intolerant society.
Monica Lemes Neiva
Monica Lemes Neiva is the mother of a young lesbian woman who attempted suicide several times because she believed her family would not accept her. Today, she is part of a group called Mothers for Diversity whose main function is to care for and protect LGBTQ+ children from a homophobic and intolerant society, giving them the opportunity to be loved and welcomed. She graced us with stories of mothers who unconditionally love their children independent of their choices and condition, who are ferocious lionesses when they defend their young. Because of this, these young people feel more welcome and safe in the knowledge that they are accepted with much love.
Ana Maria de Oliveira Marques
The mother of a trans woman with a big heart, Ana Maria de Oliveira Marques shared her life story with love and learning. Because of her experience, she was invited by the mayor of her city, Guarulhos, to be the Undersecretary of Diversity, where she does the arduous and loving work of understanding what the lesbian, gay, and bisexual population, and more significantly the transgender population, suffer to get medical care or even decent employment. She has rolled up her sleeves and succeeded in helping these people live with greater dignity. Her daughter attempted suicide in her youth, and this personal experience drives her to work toward preventing other suicide attempts by LGBTQ+ people.
Tino Perez is a volunteer of the association CVV (center of valorization of life) that was created in 1962 in the city of São Paulo. Today, the organization is in all the states of Brazil and the Federal District. Volunteers and trained people are always ready to take calls or talk to people who are in crisis to connect to converse. These volunteers try to help these people by simply listening. This entity has great respect in Brazilian society and has provided assistance to anyone regardless of gender, color, race, nationality, age, etc.
Dr. Danilo Furlanetto
A psychiatrist, professor of medicine, psychoanalyst LGBTQ+, Dr. Danilo Furlanetto alerted those in attendance to the numbers of people who attempt suicide and causes, studies and research on the acceptance and knowledge of what it is to be LGBTQ+. He presented his research involving young Brazilians and students about what they understood about being LGBTQ+ or whether they naturally accepted it. To the great surprise of many, this study showed that at least half of the respondents were prejudiced against LGBTQ+ people. The research also showed that the number of suicide attempts is significantly larger among the transgender population.
As the president of Affirmation Brazil, Cristina Moraes was the representative of the organization at the discussion table. She talked about the amount of LGBTQ+ Mormon people who suffer from the pain of being who they are and carrying a religious heritage that does not fully accept LGBTQ individuals. She shared that many of these people become depressed and anxious and many attempt suicide as a solution to their problems.
The Affirmation Brazil presidency has done tremendous work to relieve the suffering of these people. The presidency saw September, Suicide Prevention Month, as an opportunity to speak more openly with society on this issue and bring public bodies together to discuss this delicate issue, one that should be treated as a public health issue. Months of preparation went into making the symposium a success. Unlike Affirmation conferences that take place every year in Brazil, this was the great event open to the wider community with the presence of representatives of organizations with great affinity within the LGBTQ+ population.