988 Suicide Prevention Line offers help to LGBTQ youth in crisis

NEW BEDFORD – When the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline #988 was rolled out last month, the SouthCoast LGBTQ+ Network knew it would be a helpful resource to further address the rise in teen suicides within the LGBTQ+ community .

“Kids know 911, 911, 911 in an emergency, hopefully soon they will all know 988, 988, 988…as a resource to help them or anyone in the community,” said Traci Welch, secretary and events coordinator for the network.

The existing lifeline, which will also connect people to 988, was originally a 10-digit number, 800-273-8255.

“To dial a long phone number with the technology we have today, it’s just easy to be able to just text a number to 988,” Welch added.

“Having an easy route for our kids or LGBTQ+ people…having that extra extra resource is needed.”

According to a 2020 report by the Trevor Project, 52% of transgender and non-binary children have considered suicide and 20% have attempted to harm themselves.

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Every 45 seconds, at least one young LGBTQ person in the United States between the ages of 13 and 24 attempts suicide, according to the Trevor Project report.

Another resource for LGBTQ youth

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-14 and 25-34, but LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to consider, plan or attempt to commit suicide.

Welch said it recently changed its Elevate Youth program to include ages 8 to 14, when it was originally only offered to children ages 14 to 24, due to demand for children’s resources in New Bedford.

Welch said network executives met recently to share news that they have received approval to begin construction at their new Eighth Street center.

Members of the SouthCoast LGBTQ+ Network have planned the Pride events at Buttonwood Park.  From left to right are network president Andrew Pollack, Eileen Dugas, Traci Welch and Kerry Zeida.

“It’s been just an amazing process, to have this opportunity to have the center…we’re excited to have this program so we can help the community even more soon,” Welch said.

“It’s great to have this resource for our community to add to the list.”

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LGBTQ advocates further hope that these types of expansive and culturally competent services, such as 988, will be of great help to young people.

With an expected increase in call volume, more training on best practices for preventing suicide among LGBTQ youth is essential.

In practice, this type of training can teach how to ask for a person’s pronouns or understand how different responses and services are needed for an LGBTQ and homeless or LGBTQ and black person.

How does 988 work?

After dialing or texting 988, you will be connected with a trained mental health professional at a local or regional crisis centre. If your local center cannot connect you to an adviser, national rescue centers can take the call. The lifeline is administered by the non-profit organization Vibrant Emotional Health.

Lifeline’s main goal is to provide support to people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress when they need it most and in a person-centered way.

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The Lifeline responds 24/7 to calls, chats, or texts from anyone needing help with suicidal, mental health, and/or addiction crises, and connects those in need with trained crisis counsellors.

The vast majority of those who seek help from Lifeline require no further intervention at this time. Currently, less than 2% of Lifeline calls require a connection to emergency services like 911.

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Will you be hospitalized for calling 988?

While some safety and health issues may warrant a response from law enforcement and/or emergency medical services (particularly when a suicide attempt is in progress), 988’s coordinated response aims to promote stabilization and care in the least restrictive way.

Most contacts with the Lifeline are resolved by the Lifeline itself, via chat or telephone, in a manner that does not require further intervention.

When the national 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline services launch on Saturday, they will provide immediate help in a mental health crisis.  But he won't get Granite Staters with out-of-state area codes directly to help in New Hampshire.

SAMHSA, the organization behind 988, is also working closely with the Lifeline administrator to ensure this critical feature is enabled as quickly as possible. Currently, people who speak Spanish and other languages ​​must call 988 to reach a crisis counselor who can speak to them in their native language.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time of day or night, or chat online.

Crisis Text Line also provides free confidential 24/7 support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.

Information from USA Today was used in this report.

Standard-Times editor Seth Chitwood can be reached at shitwood@st.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.