Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is coming to a close, but continuing conversations around suicide may be more crucial than ever. A recent study found that more Americans reported a decline in their mental health amid the pandemic, and rates of depression have tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Trevor Project is the largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people in the world. Johnston, an actor who has been volunteering at the organization for four years, opened up to Yahoo Life about when he called into the Trevor Lifeline himself as a teen. “When I was in high school, I was in the process of kind of understanding who I was,” Johnston says. “And through that, I felt that I was really alone.” One night after reaching an emotional breaking point, Johnston says he remembered learning about The Trevor Project in a school assembly. He looked up the number and decided to give the crisis lifeline a call. “I was saying things I’ve never told anyone for the first time, and it was met with Johnston’s call with a Trevor Project counselor that night marked the beginning to a newfound perspective. “I just remember feeling like I can finally be proud of who I am, and live my life knowing that there’s a community that supports me,” he says. After graduating from college, Johnston reconnected with the organization and decided to go through the training to become a volunteer counselor, so he could help teens who call in for support. “I saw volunteering for Trevor as like the final step in my coming out journey,” Johnston explains. “To the point where I can now give back, give that support to other young people who really need it in crisis.”
CONNOR JOHNSTON: We've heard the stat that LGBTQ youth who report a strong social support system are far less likely to attempt suicide, and I know for a fact that that's absolutely true. I'm Connor Johnston, my pronouns are he, him, and his, and I'm a volunteer counselor for the Trevor Project.
So when I was in high school, I was in the process of kind of understanding who I was. And through that, I felt that I was really alone. In the process of coming out to a few people, I realized that no one just knew. No one just got it. And I was going through so much inner turmoil, I needed some resource, someone to talk to, to just know that there was another side of all this.
The Trevor Project is the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people. When I was, like, really emotional, going through a really hard time one night, and I looked up the number, and I just gave it a call. I was saying things I've never told anyone for the first time, and it was met with such compassion and understanding and empathy. And it was the first time I'd ever heard messages like that. And I just remember feeling like I can finally be proud of who I am and live my life, knowing that there is a community that supports me.
So a lot of people think that you don't want to ask someone if they're thinking about suicide as an option because they might cause that person to feel more strongly about those ideas. That's not the case. If you're an adult figure in a young person's life, and you sense that they might be going through a hard time, a time of crisis, a time of struggling with mental health, support and outreach starts locally. It starts within your family. It might be a really hard conversation to have, but at the end of it, you will feel that you're there for them, and that young person knows that you're not afraid to handle these kinds of conversations.
I saw volunteering for Trevor as, like, the final step in my coming out journey to the point where I can now give back, give that support to other young people who really need it in crisis. We are there to listen to you, to make you feel heard, understood, and less alone. So if you're going through a time of crisis, if suicide is on your mind, or if it's not, reach out to us on the lifeline, the text line, the chat line. We're there to show young people that no crisis is too big or too small, that you're beautiful the way you are. You deserve love and support and that you are never alone.
There are times when I talk to someone whose story is so similar to mine. It's great to, like, be able to tell them that, like, I get it, and I'm right there with them. And I feel so lucky to be able to finally tell someone everything that I wanted to tell myself at the time.
It has taught me that when I was a young person, nothing I did was wrong. I've now been on the other end of so many other people's stories that it's made me change my narrative. Now looking back, I realize, like, I was a survivor. I was getting through it. I was doing everything I could. Every part of me deserves love and deserves validation and acceptance.