ALI VELSHI (HOST): From school closures to business shutdowns, the coronavirus is changing lives across the country, and among those affected that you might not think of at first blush are LGBTQ youth. According to the Human Rights Campaign, four in 10 young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, say the community in which they live is not accepting, making sheltering in place uniquely difficult. Right now, according to the Trevor Project, there are more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth in the United States between the ages of 13 and 24 who seriously consider suicide each year, a situation that can be escalated by isolation and insecurity.
So how are LGBTQ youth handling the social isolation, and if they are in danger, do they know how and where to seek help, and might you be able to provide that help? Joining me now is Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project, which is the largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth. Amit, what's unique -- we've been exploring this all week, segments of the population that have unique struggles with sheltering in place, social distancing, staying indoors all the time -- what's the thing that you've heard that makes this difficult for some members of the LGBTQ community?
AMIT PALEY (THE TREVOR PROJECT): Well, we know that LGBTQ young people, as you can see from some of the statistics that you shared, are already at risk of discrimination and isolation, which can impact their mental health. We know, as you said, that there are more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth every single year -- this is pre- this pandemic -- that seriously consider suicide every year. And a lot of the places that some of that tension comes from is being rejected from society and from their families. For a lot of LGBTQ young people, the main sources of support that they get are at their schools, at clubs, at community centers, at physical spaces that they no longer have access to, and so being isolated with your family, some of whom who may be rejecting of your very identity, not giving you the source of support that you need, and not being able to connect with some of those really important, positive influences in your life can be extremely challenging for LGBTQ youth right now.
VELSHI: And not to mention, I mean, a lot of workplaces have made great strides in making work a safer place for LGBTQ workers who now don't have access to that. We're putting the Trevor Lifeline on the screen. We'll put it up again at the end of the segment. Is there any kind of generalized advice, or is it too broad and varied, the experiences that people have? If I know somebody who's struggling with this, they're sheltering with their family, their family is not accepting of them, they're cut off from their community or their school or their workplace because they've got to be at home, what can I do to help?
PALEY: Well, first of all, if you are a young person who is LGBTQ right now who is listening, we want to send a really clear message to you that you are deserving of love and respect, and that you are beautiful the way that you are, and that you are not alone, even if you might be in a situation right now where you cannot physically be with people who support you. We want to make really clear that social distancing is not the same as social isolation, and what we're really talking about here is physical distancing. There are places you can reach out to for support -- you might have other family, you might have your chosen family, you might have friends, and there are always organizations like the Trevor Project that are here 24/7. We have been seeing an increase in the number of LGBTQ youth who have been reaching out, and this past weekend, we saw nearly twice the level of young people reaching out, and we know that this pandemic is having an impact, that young people are not sure where they can turn to for support.
It's also important to note that today's the International --
VELSHI: Amit --
PALEY: Sorry, I was going to say that today is also International Transgender Day of Visibility, and we know that transgender and nonbinary young people can face particular discrimination. There may be some that are depending on health care systems and depending on a lot of sources of support that they may not get from their family. We put out a guide today on how to be an ally to trans and nonbinary youth, and we want to encourage everyone to support and send love -- messages of love and support and acceptance to all of the LGBTQ young people that they know, and let them know that they can always --
VELSHI: And they are people who face discrimination every single day, regardless of whether there's a crisis. Amit, thank you for the work that you do. Amit is the CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project. Here's that information again on how to get help: Call 866-488-7386, text START, or visit thetrevorproject.org/help.