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LGBTQ Americans are calling suicide hotlines at record numbers after Trump's win

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LGBTQ Americans are calling suicide hotlines at record numbers after Trump's win

WATCH  | Crisis and suicide hotlines specifically created for the LGBTQ community have been ringing off the hook since Donald Trump was elected the 45th U.S. president, hotline operators told Circa.


'Overwhelming'

The Trevor Project -- a crisis hotline catering to young LBGTQ people -- received more calls in the 24 hours after the election than in its entire 18-year history, with one exception.

"The only time we got more calls was when we were featured on [the TV show] Glee," said Steve Mendelsohn, the Trevor Project's deputy executive director. "So if you take that out, because that was an anomaly, this is the highest in our history."

"It's been overwhelming," he added.

LGBTQ youth anxious, scared of Trump

Mendelsohn said the Trevor Project normally gets about 54,000 calls a year from LGBTQ youth who say they have anxiety or suicidal thoughts.

He said Trump's election is causing an unprecedented amount of worry in the community.

"They feel personally anxious," he said. "Over 95 percent of our callers have mentioned the election. And they talk about how worried they are, for themselves, and for other people who are LGBTQ."

Why so much anxiety?

The common thread of most calls, Mendelsohn said, is that callers are scared:

Scared of a president who opposes marriage equality, who has expressed support for laws limiting which type of public restroom transgender people use, and who has expressed support for letting parents subject their gay and transgender children to "conversion therapy" -- a pseudo-scientific treatment method that attempts reverse a child's sexual orientation or gender identity.

A lot of people are worried about personal well-being.
Steve Mendelsohn

Afraid to come out


And it's not just policy -- Mendelsohn said many LBGTQ Americans are scared of Trump's supporters. They feel that the mogul's brash, so-called "politically incorrect" rhetoric has emboldened others to be openly discriminatory.

"They may be afraid to come out, they may be afraid to be themselves," Mendelsohn said.

Fears over loss of Obamacare

Greta Gustava Martela, manager of the transgender-centered crisis hotline Trans Lifeline, said many transgender Americans are also afraid that Trump has vowed to repeal Obamacare -- specifically because they hold health-care plans that cover hormone therapy and gender re-assignment surgery. 

Martela said Trans Lifeline has also been receiving a record number of calls since the election.


Trans hotline overwhelmed

According to Martela, Trans Lifeline received more calls on election night than the organization had in the entire month of November in 2015. And the organization's small staff can't handle all the calls, she said.

"In the last 24 hours we’ve gotten 528 incoming calls and answered 185," she told Circa. "We usually answer about 30 or 40 calls in a day. We’re averaging about four times than we usually do. The call volume is so much it’s hard to keep up."


Worried about trans suicides

Martela said she is legitimately worried about suicide in the trans community because of the  election results. 

“It definitely makes sense that, if we’re seeing something like five times the call volume, we’d also expect an uptick in deaths by suicide, unfortunately.”

Circa has been unable to confirm any trans suicides as of Thursday afternoon, though one Guardian reporter has said some reports may be on the way

I want to encourage the trans folks out there to stay strong.
Greta Gustava Martela

'Stay strong'

Still, Martela said trans men and women have reason to keep their heads up.

"I want to encourage the trans folks out there... to remember that we've been through worse. That we are able to weather this."


What can allies do?
 
Martela encouraged allies of the trans community to play an active role in preventing anxiety and suicide among trans Americans.

“Call your trans friends. Message them on Facebook. Check in that they’re OK. Offer to take them to the grocery store," she said. "The resistance of ordinary people is the only thing that can stop this.”

Resources for the Trevor Project  and Trans Lifeline  can be found in these hyperlinks.

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