Florida | Fort Lauderdale | Health

South Florida Gayborhood Sees Suicide Spike

Wilton%20ManorsWilton Manors is a genial gayborhood of some 12,000 souls in Broward County, FL, just to the north of Fort Lauderdale. It's arguably the gayest gayborhood in America, and it's a very pleasant place. (I know, for I grew up there. It's nice!) And yet, according to the Sun Sentinel, Wilton Manors' citizens are committing suicide at a greater rate than citizens of any of the other 31 municipalities in Broward, and at three times the rate of American citizens in general. Zero-point-oh-four-seven of Wilton Manors residents are killing themselves per year.

From the Sentinel:

Over the past four years, this city of under 12,000 people has had five more suicides than [the nearby city of] Weston, which has about 65,000 people, and only one fewer suicide than [nearby] Miramar, which has 122,000 people, according to figures from the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office.

... Among last year's suicides, O'Connell said a 40-year-old gay man hanged himself in October after breaking up with his partner; a 44-year-old man with a history of mental illness shot himself in August; and a 52-year-old man — married with children — stepped in front of a train in June, conflicted about whether he was straight or gay.

While O'Connell said the suicides seem to involve every part of society — "straight, gay, rich, poor, old, young" — mental health professionals see several potential factors behind the city's increase.

Yes: gayness, poverty, and age. Wilton Manors is both older and vastly gayer than most American cities, and both the aged and the gay are slightly more likely than their younger and straighter counterparts to kill themselves. But those factors don't seem sufficient to explain the Wilton Manors discrepency, according to the Sentinel.

Wilton Manors officials have called a townhall meeting for April 19th to discuss the city's suicide problem.

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  1. Hmm, would be interesting to see the statistics. There could be some common causal factor between these suicides, or it could just be random variation in the suicide rate.

    Either way, it's tragic. Wish the rate was zero.

    Posted by: Adam | Feb 26, 2012 11:46:29 AM

  2. If you want to leave you get to. It's no fun living with any kind of pain.

    Posted by: uffda | Feb 26, 2012 11:55:57 AM

  3. we live here and it is a great place to be, anyplace can bring dispair, we live a blessed life and still have problems. let's all try to help each other out.

    Posted by: best world | Feb 26, 2012 12:17:03 PM

  4. logic demands the local police force should be investigated first and foremost for declaring murders of gay men as suicides before pronouncing older gay population killing themselves in larger numbers than neighboring areas

    Posted by: say what | Feb 26, 2012 2:35:06 PM

  5. @Say What: Implying that the police have a secreat homophobic agenda is a wild, unfounded accusation. That's not logic. If the friends/family of these men didn't object to the police findings, there's no reason we should.

    Posted by: alex | Feb 26, 2012 5:50:40 PM

  6. This is sad and troubling. How come so few comments? Doesn't quite fit into shill's agendas and talking points?

    Posted by: ratbastard | Feb 26, 2012 7:39:00 PM

  7. I owned a house in Wilton Manors in the 90's and loved living there.

    Posted by: chasmader | Feb 26, 2012 8:17:52 PM

  8. alex

    where did I say the entire force had such leanings?

    all it takes is 1-2 police officers to do such. you would be surprised how few hands police reports pass through for checking after they are submitted. You would also be surprised on what constitutes a "check" (very little) of said paper work by higher ups.

    I would not be surprised if 1 to 2 officers are in fact covering up gay murders as suicide. An investigation will reveal whether or not such is occurring

    once that variable is removed then one needs to check environmental factors that would lead to such a rate of suicides

    Posted by: say what | Feb 26, 2012 8:49:17 PM

  9. I have visited there and had a good time, but I can't imagine actually living there fulltime. It seems pretty superficial and youth-obssessed - also kind of snobby.

    Posted by: Rance | Feb 26, 2012 9:00:44 PM

  10. Florida is a homophobic state. Take any subset of the population (whether an ethnic group or albinos or dwarfs or whatever the trait) and put them in a region where voters pass laws attacking them based on lies proclaimed by politicians and hateful sermons delivered at pulpits, and you'll see an increase in hopelessness and more suicides than in the general population.

    Posted by: Gregv | Feb 27, 2012 12:31:08 AM

  11. Well I used to work near Wilton Manors in the 90's. In fact I knew one of the few straight families living there at the time and they were very happy when gay people moved in the neighborhood because they said their property values increased. Maybe the suicides have to do with the downturn in the economy.

    I believe the Fort Lauderdale/Wilton Manors has probably the largest gay population in America. From what I understand, there's been an increase in gay bashing in South Beach, Miami as more non gay people have come into that neighborhood & a lot of the gay establishments are no longer there. Because of this, a lot of gay people have been moving North to Fort Lauderdale & their suburbs. All that influx of new people can unsettle a neighborhood. Lots of speculation here, but I'm sure they'll investigate to see what's happening.

    Posted by: sara | Feb 27, 2012 1:22:40 AM

  12. A population subjected to quite a different life experience –that is discrimination, society misunderstanding, religious condemnation, lack of bonding with the average member of the group you belong, more difficulties into finding a couple, exposure to STD in a different rate, etc.- always will show signs of higher distress. Obviously the more accepting the society IN GENERAL becomes and the more there is a system to accommodate their needs, the less likely this patterns will show, even though will be always there for some unlucky gay people.
    Not everybody can surpass the emotional hurdles of troubled personal experiences and have a healthy and well adjusted mind. Add some unique problems later in life and there you have some different results.
    The good part is you –in the other extreme of the rope- also have a higher rate of stronger, toughened, fighting people, and that is what explains how the LGTB population gained so much in so little time compared to other historically oppressed groups.

    Posted by: Lexxvs | Feb 27, 2012 1:42:11 AM

  13. Here's a link to an article that describes the move from Miami to Fort Lauderdale area for some due to gay bashing.


    This is a 2010 article which is within the year ranges showing increase in suicide. It would seem that the Wilton Manors area during that time was getting an increase in population with some who had been victims of violence or fear. There could possibly be a connection to this & the increase in suicide. All speculation of course,

    Posted by: sara | Feb 27, 2012 1:54:23 AM

  14. Suicide can also be epidemic. So the suicide of one person person puts it in the mind of other people. This is why someone with a family member (parent or sibling) that commits suicide is a much higher risk. And when there is a lot of publicity about a suicide in the community other often follow. And this is my only concern about the "It Gets Better" campaign. Hopefully the officials in this city find a way to interrupt the cycle.

    Posted by: Charlie | Feb 27, 2012 7:41:33 AM

  15. I lived in Wilton Manners from 2000-2005 and If I had to take a guess I would say there could be a few things at play here. One is an aging community and a large number of people living with HIV. Also, the economy most people that I know that are still living there are underwater or at best slightly above it. Real estate value has dropped significantly in the past six years. The foreclosure rate is high, what I am not sure is how it compares to the rest of the area. Also there is a crystal meth problem in south florida just like many gay neighborhoods across the country. Understand that I am not saying that everyone is a meth head but the disease of crystal meth messes with your brain and even people in recovery have a hard time dealing with sobriety depression sometimes sets in and people decide that they have no other choice. I also could be way off base, just my opinion. Peace

    Posted by: George | Feb 27, 2012 10:09:56 AM

  16. ^ "Also there is a crystal meth problem in south florida just like many gay neighborhoods across the country. Understand that I am not saying that everyone is a meth head but the disease of crystal meth messes with your brain"


    Posted by: anon | Feb 27, 2012 10:52:53 AM

  17. I live in Wilton Manors and love it. FYI there are "out" police officiers and lead investigators so you may want to cool the conspiracy talk.

    Posted by: Mike | Feb 27, 2012 11:08:24 AM

  18. Agreed. I lived in Wilton Manors from 1996 - 2011, and had many interactions with the local police. Very friendly, very gay friendly, and in some cases very gay. - BKT

    Posted by: Brandon K. Thorp | Feb 27, 2012 11:09:57 AM

  19. Hmm, I' have to accelerate my move to WM before I do it.

    Posted by: Fred | Feb 27, 2012 1:08:47 PM

  20. Suicide is a tragedy, but I always found Wilton Manors to be depressing...at least architecturally. It's filled with ugly cinder block homes, crumbling buildings from the 60s and 70s and characterless stucco strip malls. And that was before the housing bust. I can't imagine what it looks like now. I'll take my chances in South Beach.

    Posted by: txstevo | Feb 27, 2012 2:35:14 PM

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