Editor's Note: Charles Robbins is the Executive Director of The Trevor Project, the non-profit organization that operates the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. He previously held key leadership positions at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
This week, as we recognize National Suicide Prevention Week (September 7 through 13) and World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10), we are reminded that with the support of our local communities and allies, we can fight the epidemic of LGBTQ youth suicide and empower young people to make healthy decisions. Therefore, we are particularly grateful to New York Governor, David Paterson, for proclaiming Wednesday, September 10, 2008 as The Trevor Project Day in the state of New York. The Trevor Project day strategically coincides with World Suicide Prevention Day, and is meant to create awareness about the high rate of LGBTQ youth suicide.
It is tragic to report that LGBTQ youth remain up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. In addition, LGBTQ youth who come from a rejecting family are up to nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. Thanks to The Trevor Helpline, our youth are not alone. The Trevor Helpline is a free and confidential service that offers hope and someone to talk to, 24/7.
What can you do to impact the devastating problem of LGBTQ youth suicide in this country? To start, learn to recognize the warning signs that may indicate a young person is at risk. These include:
• A tendency toward isolation and social withdrawal
• Increasing substance abuse
• Expression of negative attitudes toward self
• Expression of hopelessness or helplessness
• Loss of interest in usual activities
• Giving away valued possessions
• Expression of a lack of future orientation: "It won't matter soon anyway."
• For someone who has been very depressed, when that depression begins to lift, the individual may be at INCREASED risk of suicide, as the individual will have the psychological energy to follow through on suicidal ideation.
If you or a young person close to you is exhibiting any of these signs, we encourage you to be their lifeline. Listen, and accept the person's feelings as they are. Do not be afraid to discuss suicide directly. This will not put ideas about suicide into the person's head. It will, instead, let the young person know it is okay to share feelings and fears with you. Most importantly, refer any youth in crisis or exhibiting suicidal tendencies to The Trevor Helpline. Youth can call the Helpline at 866-4-U-TREVOR 24 hours per day. If a suicide attempt is imminent, seek outside emergency help from a hospital, mental health clinic or call "911."
Let us continue to work together to protect our youth across the country. If you'd like to learn more about The Trevor Project, please visit our Web site at: www.TheTrevorProject.org. To learn more about our arresting new social marketing campaign, "I'm Glad I Failed," visit: www.TheTrevorProject.org/ImGladIFailed.