September is National Suicide Awareness Month, and the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people has honored Grammy award-winning artist Lil Nas X with its inaugural Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year Award.
A recent press statement from the organization highlighted Lil Nas X’s ongoing commitment to supporting their mission to end suicide among LGBTQ young people. Noting his openness about struggling with his sexuality and suicidal ideation, Lil Nas X has advocated for mental health awareness and has displayed an unapologetic celebration of his own queer identity.
Also known as Montero Lamar Hill, Lil Nas quickly rose to fame with his 2019 “Old Town Road.” In the short time since his debut, he has been an outspoken and unapologetic member of the LGBTQ community, defying historic norms in the music industry. The Trevor Project released the following statement: “Lil Nas X quickly became a global LGBTQ icon recognized for his fearless effort in changing the status quo around what it means to be queer and Black in the mainstream music industry.”
In February, Lil Nas shared a series of intimate TikTok videos documenting his life story, which included his battle with depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety during his rise to fame. The following month, he penned a heartfelt letter to his 14-year-old self about coming out publicly to mark the release of “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” “I know we promised to die with the secret,” he wrote, “but this will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist.”
In May, he released the music video for his single “SUN GOES DOWN,” which depicts Lil Nas uplifting a younger version of himself in high school, when he was contemplating suicide and struggling to come to terms with his sexual orientation.
A 2021 national survey by the Trevor Project on LGBTQ youth mental health found that 42 percent have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Half of those were transgender and nonbinary youth.
“The past year has been incredibly difficult for so many,” says Amit Paley, The Trevor Project’s CEO & executive director. “But we also know that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth have faced unique challenges.”
The report also found disparities among Black youth. Twenty-one percent of Black LGBTQ youth and 21percent of multiracial youth have attempted suicide compared to 12 percent of their white counterparts. The survey captures the experiences of nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13-24 across the United States.
These numbers are even more staggering this year due to the added pressures caused by the pandemic. Seventy percent of LGBTQ youth stated their mental health was “poor” most of the time or always during COVID-19. “This data underscores many of the serious challenges experienced by LGBTQ youth over the last year and should serve as an urgent call to action,” says Paley.
While the pandemic caused some youth to be cut off from school and other external support services, the Charlotte-based Time Out Youth (TOY) saw an increase in young people accessing their online support programs like QChat. Earlier this year, qnotes reported that Time Out Youth saw almost a 30 percent increase from the previous year in young people directly impacted through services, programs and direct outreach.
The organization offers free mental health services to LGBTQ youth ages 11-23. From a statement on TOY’s website: “We know that access to inclusive, relevant and affirming mental health services can directly reduce depression, anxiety and feelings of isolation among LGBTQ youth.”
The Trevor Project continues to push for increased visibility and comprehensive policy solutions to improve the experiences of LGBTQ youth.
“Discrimination around sexuality and gender identity is still very real, and our community deserves to feel supported and totally free to be themselves,” Lil Nas offered, while accepting this year’s award. “I get messages from fans telling me about their struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, and it made me realize that this was something bigger than myself. If using my voice and expressing myself in my music can help even one kid out there who feels alone, then it was all worth it.”
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