Source: ABC 11
The 988 suicide prevention hotline, aimed at helping LGBTQ+ youth and young adults, is expanding its services by rolling out 24/7 text message and chat services amid a mental health crisis.
Launched in 2022, the hotline was a pilot program that specialized in call, text and chat services for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults. During its early stages, the hotline’s call services were available 24/7, while text messages and chat were only available from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily on the East Coast.
Earlier this month, the service, which is funded by the federal U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, announced it will expand its text and chat services to around-the-clock availability.
According to ABC News, from the start of the program through the end of February, approximately 11% of chats and texts coming through the hotline were for LGBTQ+ specialists, along with 6% of calls. Those accounted for about 138,000 total contacts, a SAMHSA official told ABC News.
A 2021 CDC survey found that 52% of LGBTQ+ teens experienced poor mental health in the past year, with 1 in 5 saying they had attempted suicide during that period of time.
“There is no question from this data [that] young people are telling us that they are in crisis,” stated Kathleen Ethier, director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health. “And there is this growing wave of violence and trauma that’s affecting young people, especially teen girls and LGBTQ+ youth.”
Research by the Trevor Project, also found that one in five Black transgender and nonbinary youth reported a suicide attempt in the previous year, with LGBTQ+ youth of color reporting higher rates than their white peers.
“Immediate steps must be taken by educators, youth-serving adults and mental health professionals to ensure that Black trans and nonbinary young people feel seen, supported and protected against a world that so often brings them harm,” stated Dr. Myeshia Price, director of research science at the Trevor Project.
More than 420 bills have been introduced by Republicans in state legislatures across the U.S., targeting LGBTQ+ rights, services, and LGBTQ+ youth, in 2023, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Experts have noted that various social and environmental factors are driving mental health problems among teens, especially LGBTQ+-identifying teens.
You can also access the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline online here.