The Trevor Project has praised CNN and Kamala Harris for addressing youth suicide at last night’s LGBTQ Town Hall, the first time during this election cycle that a presidential candidate has spoken on the topic.
Trevor Project CEO Amit Paley raised the question during the town hall, pointing out that LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide as their peers, and that 39 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months. That figure rises to over 50 percent for transgender and nonbinary youth.
”How will your Administration address the challenge of LGBTQ youth suicide?” Paley asked.
Harris’ response, which CNN has not made available online, echoed the points made in her recently-released equality plan. She called for creating safe environments for LGBTQ+ youth whose housing and education situations are unstable, implementing policies to address mental health issues, and removing secretary of education Betsy DeVos.
According to the written plan, Harris would also establish a Chief Advocate for LGBTQ+ Affairs in the White House, working across agencies and with community advocates to support the queer community. Harris’ plan specifically addresses the need for stable employment and housing, particularly for trans citizens, and would direct the new Advocate to work with the Department of Housing to the Department of Labor to create a funding initiative specifically to expand housing, healthcare, and educational access.
Tom Steyer, a billionaire and long-shot candidate currently polling under 5 percent, also addressed the topic. Noting the high rates of suicide attempts, he said, “anyone who doesn’t want to do whatever it takes to protect the young people, really must search their soul … In terms of protection, equality, justice, my goodness, I don’t see that there’s another side to the conversation.”
The question comes just weeks after news emerged regarding Channing Smith, a 16-year-old who died by suicide after reports indicated that classmates outed him on social media.
The Trevor Project estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 in the U.S. seriously consider suicide each year.
In particular, the election season is likely to be a challenging time. The Trevor Project found that 76 percent of LGBTQ+ youth felt that the political climate overall impacts their mental health or sense of self.
As rhetoric heats up, the organization is bracing for a rise in calls. Following the announcement of Trump’s trans military ban, for example, calls to the Trevor Project more than doubled. Calls also doubled after The New York Times reported that the administration would narrow the legal definition of gender.
But as dire as the situation may seem, help is available. The presence of just one accepting adult can decrease the risk of LGBTQ+ youth attempting suicide by 40%.
For his part, Paley was encouraged by the candidates’ responses. “It was inspiring to see so much passion for supporting LGBTQ youth on-stage and in the audience tonight,” he said in a written statement. “Suicide is a public health crisis — with LGBTQ young people at even higher risk for attempting suicide — and we hope to work with future administrations to ultimately end suicide among LGBTQ youth and to show them that they are loved and never alone.”