"I figured if no one wanted me or my child, I would try to kill myself."
Crushing words from 22-year-old Talia, who identifies as "bi, genderqueer and a proud parent." Talia was a homeless teen at Urban Peak four years ago when she met a man, fell in love, and got pregnant. Her boyfriend wanted her to have an abortion, but she didn't. He began to wrestle with her, leaving bruises, and would say he was "just playing."
It got worse. Talia began to recognize the abuse for what it was, but she says, "I didn't want to be a single mother like my mom was."
After repeated episodes in which her boyfriend shook her belly, threatened her with his fists, and told her, "You're nothin' to me, and neither is that kid," Talia made a decision to end it all. But during her suicide attempt, the mother-to-be felt a kick from inside her stomach, and she fought to stay alive, thinking: "There is a little spark of light in this dark hole."
Her son is now 3.
3 to 1
According to the Colorado Trust's 2008 "Preventing Suicide in Colorado" report, sexual-minority individuals comprise one of three groups at particularly high risk for suicide in this state. More specifically, a 2003 youth risk behavioral survey in two Colorado school districts showed that "44 percent of sexual-minority respondents reported having attempted suicide, compared to 13.5 percent of their heterosexual counterparts."
Hence the need for You Are Not Alone, a locally produced film that will premiere in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, June 15, at Penrose Library. It's the product of a collaboration between the Suicide Prevention Partnership of the Pikes Peak Region and Inside/Out Youth Services, with grant funds from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. The documentary brings together nine local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning teens and young adults, as well as some straight allies, who tell their stories of intimate struggles with family, domestic and sexual violence; substance abuse; bullying; self-harm; and, in the majority of the nine situations, violence that has led to suicide attempts.
Janet Karnes, executive director of the Suicide Prevention Partnership, emphasizes that You Are Not Alone is meant for a broader audience than LGBTQ youths. Directed by local Susan Davis (who is a holistic health consultant by day and paid particular attention to the teens' emotional needs throughout the six weeks leading up to film day), it is primarily designed to help straight teens "understand that [LGBTQ] teens go through some of the exact same things they do, and to understand, people are just people."
The nonprofit plans to include the film — a concise 24 minutes of emotional and sometimes graphic personal interviews — in its Safe Teen suicide prevention trainings in schools as well as the larger community.
Seventeen-year-old Springs resident Krystal talks openly in the film about her struggles with suicidal thoughts. In 2007, her family moved from Colorado to Arizona — a journey that took her away from her comfort zone and into what she describes in an interview with the Independent as "a downward kind of spiral."
"I felt like there was nobody for me to talk to, because I didn't have my friends anymore ... I ended up keeping myself just very introverted. I would not go out and do anything social. I would just be by myself."
At her lowest point, Krystal told her mom, "I'm done." Her mother asked her what she meant.
"I was like, 'I just really don't want to be here. I'm done.' I really thought that I was done."
Her mother listened to her and took her to a doctor who diagnosed Krystal as bipolar and helped her find treatment.
At the time, Krystal says, her mom didn't know her daughter was bisexual. LGBTQ individuals are more silenced by society about their struggles, Krystal adds, because not only are they "dealing with their thoughts and feelings, but they're also dealing with their orientation" and whether or not people are going to accept them for who they are.
Though Krystal thinks that her sexual orientation contributed to her desire to kill herself, she says that "wasn't the priority concern."
"I was going through that transition, and I was afraid," she says, "but stuff at home and the fact that I was feeling so depressed because I didn't have anybody to talk to was a major contributor."
Her greatest hope is that this film will get people — all people — talking.
"A lot of people, especially in the Springs, don't realize that even if they're straight or bisexual or gay or anything like that, that there's still violence. This film — it's going to be able to tell anybody, regardless of their sexual orientation, that it can happen to anyone."