As the United States and the world recognize National Suicide Prevention Week and World Suicide Prevention Day on Friday, some localities, including New York and West Hollywood, are also acknowledging Trevor Project Day to put the focus on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youths.
Founded in 1998, the Trevor Project is the leading accredited national organization dedicated to providing 24/7 assistance to help LGBTQ youths ages 18-24 in crisis. Each year the Trevor Project provides confidential counseling services to approximately 30,000 callers on its Lifeline as well as advocacy on the federal, state, and local levels to help change school policies and pass legislation such as the Safe Schools Improvement Act.
Other services include TrevorSpace, the social networking platform launched in 2008, which now has more than 10,000 members; Y-Care, a service for those with an interest in preventing youth suicide; and TrevorChat, which launched in August and already has hosted 250 conversations.
The new TrevorChat, where young people can sign in to talk with professionals and highly trained volunteers, is available Fridays from 4 p.m. to midnight in all U.S. time zones. Eventually, organizers hope it will expand to offer around-the-clock service like the Lifeline, which tends to draw older clients than the chat service.
"There are a lot of questioning conversations on TrevorChat," said Laura McGinnis, communications director for the Trevor Project. "People want to know about gender identity and how to react when they are challenged by revelations about a friend's sexuality. There is a younger skew to the chat service."
In addition to new services, the Trevor Project this year plans to add
three or four new employees, bringing the number of staff
members to about 16. The expansion comes despite an economic downturn that has
challenged many LGBT nonprofits.
"It speaks of the urgency of
the need," said McGinnis. "LGBT youths are up to four times more likely
to commit suicide compared to their straight peers. LGBT youths are at
an increased risk."
Kyle Rudebusch, a 23-year-old aspiring real
estate broker in Colorado Springs, Colo., is intimately familiar with
the needs of LGBTQ youths in crisis, especially those who have been
rejected by their families. In January 2008 he called the Trevor
Project Lifeline after attempting suicide twice while living with his
religious family in South Dakota.
"I was so miserable and I
wanted to end it all, but I had heard about the Trevor Project when I
was hospitalized," he said. "They had so much compassion. For me, Trevor
means my life."
Today, Rudebusch serves on the ambassadors
council of the Trevor Project and volunteers to lead Lifeguard
workshops that educate students and faculty members in schools. This
October he will visit high schools in the Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota, where three gay students have committed suicide
in a community epidemic this year.
"The point is (a) to implement change and (b) to be
able to cope with the loss they had this year," he said. "It's important
to have a safe school for all students, not just a select few."