“It is okay to talk about suicide. It is a key part of suicide prevention.”
Support for young people in the LGBTQ+ community is needed, possibly more than we know or realise.
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States, 43% of LGBTQ+ youth in grades 9 through 12 seriously considered suicide in 2015. A further 38% had made suicide plans, while roughly 30% had attempted suicide.
One of the best known projects offering support for LGBTQ+ youth was founded back in 1998. Today, the Trevor Project’s impact can be seen through the 54,000 people who called their crisis support services in 2015. When you include prevention programmes and social media efforts, the Trevor Project reaches roughly 200,000 people every year.
It all began with one short film
The project’s origins can be traced in the Academy Award winning short film ‘TREVOR’. When HBO agreed to special airing of ‘TREVOR’ with Ellen DeGeneres as the host, Peggy Rajski, Founder of the Trevor Project, realised that there would be a large number of children and young adults watching the film who were going through the same thing as Trevor.
Peggy told the IPF what went through her mind at the time and how this led to the formation of the Trevor Project.
“I quickly looked for a 24-hour gay-friendly national crisis call center to refer people to, and nothing like that existed,” she explained.
“I knew suicide was one of the leading causes of death for gay and questioning youth, and it just seemed so wrong there was no safe place for kids could to turn. That’s when I decided to set up The Trevor Project.”
With the help of her producing partner, Randy Stone, and the screenwriter, James Lecesne, they began their groundbreaking work.
The need for the Trevor Project
Peggy was the Executive Director of the Trevor Project for the first three years and admitted that it was a challenge to get the not-for-profit off the ground. Although they had a strong and unique mission, getting funding was difficult and Peggy admitted that it “drove her crazy”.
“But I was determined. I was not going to let it fail. And here we are, 18 years later, still doing what we do best — thanks to a whole lot of effort on a whole lot of people’s part.”
In 2016, CDC research concluded that one out of every six students in grades 9-12 have seriously considered suicide in the past year. It then revealed that suicide attempt rates for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) teenagers was four times higher than that.
“You’ve got to pause for a moment to really take that in,” said Peggy. “Then you can see why the Trevor Project is so necessary… and why we’ll never stop doing what we do.”
The future of suicide prevention services
Apart from their suicide prevention services, the Trevor Project also produces resources and training for adults who work with young people. Steve Mandelsohn, Deputy Executive Director of the Trevor Project, explained that this helps people such as counsellors, educators, administrators, school nurses and social workers understand LGBTQ-competent suicide prevention. They also provide the general public with resources and information on issues such as sexual orientation and gender identity.
But there work isn’t done yet.
“I want the Trevor Project to expand its reach,” said Peggy. “There are so many young people still out there who need our help but don’t know about us, so we are always looking for innovative ways to get the word out – especially in the red states.”
Peggy said that Trevor Project hopes to continue expanding their sevices, particularly through making full use of the technology available to them. She hopes to expand the project’s TrevorChat and TrevorText services, which most of their audiences use to reach out for help.
“I want us to be ahead of technology young people use to communicate with each other – and that’s exactly what we’re working on.”
When we asked Peggy about her proudest moment since starting the Trevor Project, she simply said:
“Every moment we help save a life – and we do it day in and day out – is the proudest moment for me. What could be better than that?”
If you or someone you know needs support and you are in the United States, call the Trevor Project 24/7 on 866-488-7386. TextTrevor is available at 202-304-1200 Th-Fri 4-8pm ET, or TrevorChat is available 3-9pm ET. Internationally, you can connect with TrevorSpace, which is the Trevor Project’s safe online community.