NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee-based mental health nonprofit, Centerstone, has launched an option for people contacting 988 to chat with a counselor trained to assist LGBTQ+ youth in crisis.
“So many of these individuals are disproportionately at risk for suicide and mental illness. So, we wanted to make sure that we have specific training and specific counselors out there to help those individuals,” said Devin Umberger, one of the counselors working on the project.
People around the country who reach out online or via text to 988 will now receive a message asking if they want support specifically for members of the LGBTQ+ community under the age of 25.
If they opt for this support, one of the more than two dozen trained professionals Centerstone is able to hire and train with this funding will respond.
“To ensure Centerstone staff are well equipped to serve the LGBTQI+ community, each person completes 120 hours of training, which includes more than 20 hours of training on LGBTQI+ history, gender-affirming communication, use of pronouns, LGBTQI-related legislation, and more,” wrote a Centerstone spokesperson in a statement.
Umberger said this specific option has been available for the past couple of weeks, and in that time he has helped people with crises, ranging from homework to breakups to being bullied to being misgendered.
“Some of the overlying themes that we’ve noticed in our conversations are feelings of being alone. They don’t have anyone that they can talk to about some of their concerns,” he said. “A lot of our texters are feeling discriminated against at home, at school, at the workplace. That’s so that those are topics of conversation that we deal with every single day.”
According to 2022 data from the Trevor Project, 48% of LGBTQ+ youth in Tennessee have seriously considered suicide in 2021.
To address this need, Centerstone hopes to respond to 5,000 messages a month once they are fully staffed.
To learn more about the service click here.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a prevention network of 161 crisis centers that provides a 24/7, toll-free hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. If you or someone you know needs support now, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org.