Monday, July 6, 2009

Giving Back Hope - Suicide Prevention

by ENC intern Stephanie Silberstein. Her personal activism was recently featured in a new blurb by Q-notes.

You may or may not be aware of the huge problem with suicide among LGBT youth. I certainly wasn’t aware of it until almost a year ago, when my best friend told me he wanted to commit suicide.

He is both bisexual and religious, and at the time didn't see any way to resolve the conflict between what the Bible said and who he was attracted to other than to destroy himself.

Fortunately, my friend survived. He learned to embrace who he is and is living a happier, more open life now.

But he’s lucky, and so are the people who care about him: 30% of successful suicide attempts are related to the victim’s sexual orientation.

Sadly, this is a hidden problem — or at least one many people in the LGBT community are not aware of. While there’s a great organization called The Trevor Project that hosts a suicide hotline specifically geared to the LGBT youth community, there is not a lot of media attention given to this problem, and many people first face it when tragedy strikes.

So last April, I decided to step in and begin raising awareness. I opened a Cafepress store dedicated to encouraging LGBT youth to survive and thrive. I designed a few t-shirts and accessories with pro-LGBT messages, as well as creating a site that provides information about suicide prevention, safe schools, and other issues of concern to LGBT youth. The site is designed to raise awareness among both the LGBT and straight communities, and 10% of profits go to support the Trevor Project Hotline. My favorite design so far (pictured above) reads, “30% of suicides are LGBT related. I refuse to be a statistic."

It is not always easy working on suicide prevention, especially when faced with the premature deaths of handsome/beautiful, talented young people. However, I feel like I’m giving back to the LGBT community and perhaps to G-d, in gratitude that my friend made it, and living Harvey Milk’s words when he encouraged us all to “give them hope.”


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