AFSP Spotlight Interview: Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director, The Trevor Project

  1. Could you tell us a bit about The Trevor Project?

The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning) young people. The organization works to save young lives by providing support through free and confidential suicide prevention and crisis intervention programs on platforms where young people spend their time: our 24/7 phone lifeline, chat, text and soon-to-come integrations with social media platforms. We also run TrevorSpace, the world’s largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth, and operate innovative education, research, and advocacy programs.

  1. What’s your history with the organization?

I started as a volunteer counselor seven years ago, answering calls from LGBTQ youth in crisis on The Trevor Project’s 24/7 phone lifeline. Since then I’ve answered hundreds of calls from youth in crisis, and I continue to take shifts, even as the CEO. It remains the single most meaningful thing I have done in my life.

  1. What are the unique considerations that come into play with crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ+ youth?

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among all young people, but lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. And nearly half of all trans people have made a suicide attempt. Additionally, youth from highly rejecting families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than youth from accepting families.

Through research, we’ve found that just one supportive person can decrease an LGBTQ youth’s risk of suicide by 30 percent. The Trevor Project aims to always be there for LGBTQ youth in crisis, with a clear message: they should be proud of who they are, and know that they are not alone.

  1. What kind of services does The Trevor Project offer?

We’ve been saving lives every day for 20 years.

TrevorLifeline is our 24/7 phone line, which launched in 1998 and is how we got our start. But we now offer crisis services digitally, via TrevorChat and TrevorText, for youth that prefer to communicate via instant message or text.

In addition, we conduct research on LGBTQ youth and mental health; we work at the local, state, and federal levels to advocate for legislation that protects the rights of LGBTQ youth and improves mental health outcomes; and we provide LGBTQ-compentent suicide prevention programs in schools.

  1. This year is The Trevor Project’s 20th anniversary. Has this served as a time for reflection? Has the culture changed since its founding?

We’re excited to celebrate our twentieth anniversary this year! The Trevor Project started as a West Hollywood-based phone line, and it has transformed into a national LGBTQ organization with international recognition. We’ve grown so much, but know there is still so much to do to end suicide among LGBTQ young people.

  1. How can people get involved?

There’s a wide range of ways to volunteer with The Trevor Project across the country.

If you’re interested in becoming a crisis counselor to support LGBTQ young people through our text or chat services, or helping with our advocacy work in your home state, visit us at www.thetrevorproject.org/get-involved.

If you live in New York City or Los Angeles, you can also sign up to be trained as a crisis counselor on TrevorLifeline, our 24/7 phone line for young people in crisis.

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