Keeping LGBT youth alive

The Trevor Project runs the only national 365-days-a-year hotline for LGBT youth—or any adolescent—who’s considering suicide. Logging 1,000 calls a month at 866-4-U-TREVOR, the help line is a vital resource at the holidays and all year long.

BY Ryan James Kim

December 22 2005 12:00 AM ET

The year-end
holidays bring joy to many—and depression and
thoughts of suicide to others. When those at risk are
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning
youth, the Trevor Project is there to help every day
of the year, including Christmas. The organization runs a
toll-free national suicide hotline—(866)
4-U-TREVOR—as well as suicide-education
programs for LGBT youth. Jorge Valencia, executive
director of the Trevor Project, spoke with Advocate.com by
telephone.

How is the Trevor Project different from other national
suicide-prevention hotlines?
The Trevor Project runs the only nationwide
hotline for gay and lesbian teenagers. It is open 365
days of the year. The thing that makes us different
than everyone else is our focus is the highest-risk group,
LGBT youth—that is,
15–to–24-year-olds. Suicide is the number 1
killer of teens today, and every hour and 45 minutes,
a gay teenager is lost to suicide. That’s a
Columbine every single day of the year. That definitely
justifies why we’re around.

How many young people do you help in a year? We get approximately 1,000 calls a month from
teenagers all around the nation. However, when
awareness of our help line is raised we get four times
as many calls. For example, last year, after we were
mentioned after an episode on the WB’s One
Tree Hill,
calls increased fourfold.
That’s one reason why we’re so adamant about
raising awareness, because 95% of all youth suicides
are preventable. That means more lives being saved if
we can talk to them. That’s a statistic that we can
speak to.

Is the Trevor Project hotline just for gay teens?Forty percent of our callers are people who don’t
define their sexuality—and we don’t
advertise our hotline that way either. For instance,
one of our posters advertising the hotline asks the question
“Who?” as in, Who are you? Who can you turn to
for help? The thing we’re trying to avoid by
having open-ended posters like this is a situation
where a kid who’s still confused about his sexuality
[doesn’t want] to stop and look at the poster
because of fear of being harassed.

What other projects besides the national hotline does the
Trevor Project run?
We just opened the “Dear Trevor” section
on our Web site [http://www.thetrevorproject.org].
It started because we would have teens asking our webmaster
over the Internet, “I’m confused, I
think I might be gay. Can you help me?” We
created this section on our Web site so they can e-mail us,
and we have our counselors respond to them. We keep
those letters and their answers online so others can
get comfort from the letters. Of course, if someone
needs help immediately, we ask them to call the hotline so
we can help them directly.

Where did the name “Trevor Project” come from?Trevor came out of James Lecesne’s [play] Word
of Mouth.
The show had a segment about a
13-year-old boy who develops feelings for a friend of
his, and he’s ostracized. This segment was made into
a short film and in 1994 it won the Oscar [for best
live-action short]. It wasn’t until ’98
that HBO decided it wanted to air the film, and when HBO
approached the film’s creators, [the creators]
thought that they should set up a hotline for any
teens who saw the short and were going through the
same thing. Since then over 35,000 youth have been helped by
the hotline.

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