The recent series of suicides by young gay men, notably Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi and most recently youth activist Joseph Jefferson, has thrown a harsh spotlight on the struggles for acceptance many LGBT young people face.
Jefferson, a 26-year-old HIV prevention activist and advocate for gay men of color in New York, left a heartbreaking note on his Facebook page before his death acknowledging society’s unwillingness to accept those who just “need to belong.”
It may seem like society is indeed turning its back on some of its most vulnerable members. But if organizations like the Trevor Project have any say in the matter, that perception will be forcefully countered.
Every day, the Trevor Project saves young lives through its free and confidential helpline, in-school workshops, free educational materials, online resources and advocacy. This leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth was founded in 1998 by three film-makers whose film, Trevor, a true-life tragic -comic work about a gay teenager who contemplates suicide, received the 1994 Academy Award for Best Short Film (Live Action).
In an effort to positively capitalize on the publicity surrounding the epidemic of LGBT youth suicide, the Trevor Project has released statistics that are at best alarming: according to a Massachusetts Youth Risk Survey, LGBTQ youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, and the San Francisco State University Chavez Center Institute finds that LGBTQ youth who come from a rejecting family are up to nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
To counter this extreme risk of suicide, the Trevor Project has launched a series of national public service announcements targeted at gay young people. “LGBTQ youth suicide is a preventable epidemic, and at The Trevor Project we know community education is the key to combating these devastating statistics,” said Executive Director Charles Robbins. “[The PSA campaign] has the incredible power to educate communities and spread the word to youth that help is always available, and it is okay to reach out for support.”
The organization’s first PSA features Daniel Radcliffe, star of the Harry Potter films and the upcoming revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway. Radcliffe became involved with The Trevor Project in 2009 when he joined its Circle of Hope, a community of major donors that plays an essential role in the financial leadership that makes the organization’s lifesaving work possible. He has since toured the organization’s East Coast Call Center in New York City, met with staff members and volunteer helpline counselors and filmed the PSA.
MTV News offered an exclusive first look at the PSA, and the full-length version runs only on MTV.com. The PSA aims to raise awareness about The Trevor Helpline, a nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline dedicated specifically to LGBTQ youth. Radcliffe reminds young people who may feel emotionally vulnerable there is always a safe place to turn, and encourages those who are feeling lost or alone to call The Trevor Helpline. Radcliffe concludes, “Be proud of who you are,” a vital message for anyone contemplating self-harm.
“I believe The Trevor Project has a universal mission of acceptance that is so profound,” said Radcliffe. “If this brief PSA makes even one lost and alone young person aware of The Trevor Helpline and the lifesaving support it offers, then it will have been an endeavor well worth making.”
In addition to the Trevor PSA, the “It Gets Better” series of online videos will soon feature more celebrities in taped messages decrying anti-gay bullying, the apparent impetus behind many of the recent LGBTQ youth suicides. Among the gay and straight participants are Michael Chiklis, Ian Somerhalder, Jason Derulo, Cyndi Lauper, Jenny McCarthy, Kristin Cavallari, Anne Hathaway and Chris Colfer. The stars urge those who are struggling to call the confidential toll-free, 24-hour Trevor hotline at 866-488-7386.