As the nation celebrates Pride Month, The Trevor Project offers daily support to the more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth under 25 who are facing unacceptance, hate, and serious life conditions such that they are considering suicide.
We spoke with Amit Paley, the nonprofit’s CEO and Executive Director, about helping LGBTQ youth, especially in moments of crisis, and building supportive communities for affirmation and growth. The life-saving organization, a new Independent Sector member, started in 1998. It traces its origins to the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR.
IS: Could you tell us about your organization?
AP: The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people. We offer 24/7 crisis services via a phone lifeline, text, and chat, as well as the world’s largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth, TrevorSpace.
As a mental health nonprofit that serves an incredibly diverse population of young people, we are committed to taking an intersectional approach to our work and to building strategic cross-sector partnerships to foster acceptance, innovation, and cultural competence.
IS: As an Independent Sector member, what are you looking forward to that will help your organization better serve your community and other nonprofits?
AP: Being a part of the Independent Sector community will allow us to share our knowledge of LGBTQ youth mental health and suicide prevention with organizations across different fields, and enable us to gain insights from their subject matter expertise and experiences. By bringing together diverse perspectives, we will hopefully empower one another to find creative solutions to the problems we seek to tackle.
IS: Could you talk about other Trevor Project programs?
AP: In addition to our 24/7 crisis services programs, Trevor also operates an education program with resources for youth-serving adults and organizations, an advocacy department fighting for pro-LGBTQ legislation and against anti-LGBTQ rhetoric/policy positions, and a research team to discover the most effective means to help young LGBTQ people in crisis and end suicide.
IS: Independent Sector brings together a diverse community of changemakers to ensure that everyone can thrive. Why did The Trevor Project become an Independent Sector member?
AP: This past year was incredibly challenging for so many, but it was also inspiring to see different industries come together to confront the pandemic and help people in a time of great need. That’s why we decided to become an Independent Sector member—to connect with changemakers in different fields to share insights and ideas on how to make our country and our world a healthier place for all.
The Trevor Project exists at the intersection of mental health and LGBTQ advocacy. We understand that it will require comprehensive and creative solutions to end the public health crisis of suicide and to create a society that is safe and affirming for all LGBTQ young people. We share the Independent Sector’s commitment to collective solutions and inclusiveness, especially its focus on racial equity.
IS: Could you talk about how The Trevor Project supports a healthier social sector and a racially equitable and just nation?
AP: LGBTQ youth have all different backgrounds, identities, and experiences—and we know that those who hold multiple marginalized identities face unique stressors and challenges. To effectively meet the needs of different communities, we apply an intersectional lens to our research, advocacy, education, and crisis services programs.
For example, on May 19, 2021, The Trevor Project released our third annual National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, representing the experiences of nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth across the United States. With 45% of respondents being LGBTQ youth of color and 38% being transgender or nonbinary, this survey sample is our most diverse yet and it provides critical insights into how we can all better support the mental health of LGBTQ youth, especially those who are people of color and/or transgender.
IS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
AP: There is nothing better than hearing from LGBTQ young people and their families who say that our counselors helped save their life in a moment of crisis. That is why The Trevor Project exists—to save young lives and help them envision brighter futures. We strongly believe that advocating for LGBTQ youth and the most marginalized among us will help create a healthier and more equitable society for all people.
The Trevor Project offers resources for LGBTQ youth, families, friends, and allies, including the Trevor Support Center, preventing suicide, a coming out handbook, supporting Black LGBTQ mental health, and how LGBTQ youth can cope with anxiety and stress during COVID-19. The top photograph, made before the COVID-19 pandemic, is courtesy of The Trevor Project. Learn about other Independent Sector members and becoming a member.