CEO and Executive Director, The Trevor Project
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers are. More than half of transgender and nonbinary youth have seriously considered suicide, and up to 50 percent of all trans people have attempted suicide.
These statistics are often ones that lead the news, and with good reason: LGBTQ youth suicide is a public health crisis that demands urgent action. But only focusing on the negative can paint a picture that is unhelpful to the youth in crisis we strive to support, and it can be counterproductive to our shared mission of ending suicide.
How to help
We must remember that suicide is preventable and that every person can make a difference.
As the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, we at The Trevor Project have done our research — we found that LGBTQ youth who report having at least one accepting adult were 40 percent less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year.
The fact that just one person can have such a huge impact on the life of a young person is inspiring and should command more attention in conversations around LGBTQ youth suicide. To be that one accepting adult, you do not need to be a mental health expert or know everything about LGBTQ identities. You just have to listen, be affirming, and have empathy.
That’s what The Trevor Project does every day. Through our 24/7 crisis services — via phone, chat, and text — young people can connect with one of our trained crisis counselors for free, whenever they need support.
Before I became the CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project, I actually started as a volunteer counselor on our phone Lifeline in 2011. Since then, I’ve answered hundreds of calls from youth in crisis, and I continue to take shifts to this day. It remains the single most meaningful thing I have done in my life.
Central to our organization’s mission is sending a clear message to LGBTQ young people that they should be proud of who they are and that they are not alone, even in their darkest moments. I know we don’t always consider the impact of our day-to-day interactions, but simply reminding someone that they deserve love and support can go such a long way. Even as the current global pandemic creates so much pain, suffering, and isolation in the world, it is so important that we continue to offer messages of hope and positive guidance on how to enable young people to survive and thrive.
Our work is ongoing and the task before us is daunting. We estimate that there are more than 1.8 million LGBTQ young people who seriously consider suicide every year in the United States. But we also know that acceptance saves young LGBTQ lives and progress is being made every day.
If you are ever wondering how you can help, remember you can be that one accepting person in a young person’s life. And by doing just that, you can help prevent suicide.
Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director, The Trevor Project, [email protected]