The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, has named multiple Grammy Award-winner Lil Nas X as its inaugural Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year.
In a statement, The Trevor Project said the 22-year-old recording artist was selected because of his openness about his struggle with his sexuality and suicidal ideation, his advocacy around mental health issues, and his unapologetic celebration of his queer identity.
Since breaking through with the longest-running number-one hit song “Old Town Road” in 2019, Lil Nas X has embraced his identity as a gay Black man in the music industry, often courting controversy and angering social conservatives by being open about his sexuality. But he’s also used his public platform to reach out to and give hope to LGBTQ youth who may be struggling with their own journeys of self-discovery.
In February, he shared a series of TikTok videos documenting his life story, including his battles with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, even as he was becoming a musical star. In March, Lil Nas X released a heartfelt letter, addressed to his 14-year-old self, about coming out publicly, in which he again touched on his struggles with suicidal ideation.
“I know we promised to die with the secret, but this will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist,” he wrote in the letter. “You see this is very scary for me, people will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am. The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.”
Lil Nas X has even incorporated that message in the music video for his single “Sun Goes Down,” released in May, in which he is seen uplifting a younger version of himself in high school, when he was contemplating suicide due to struggling with his sexual orientation.
“The Trevor Project is thrilled to honor Lil Nas X with the Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year Award,” Amit Paley, the CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project, said in the statement. “His vulnerability in his journey to self acceptance and expression has created space for candid conversations around mental health and sexual identity, signaling to LGBTQ youth that they are not alone.
“The Trevor Project’s research shows that over 80% of LGBTQ youth say that LGBTQ celebrities positively influence how they feel about being LGBTQ, further affirming the cultural impact of Lil Nas X being proud of who he is and an ideal recipient of this inaugural award,” added Paley.
According to The Trevor Project’s third annual National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, the results of which were released in May, 42% of LGBTQ-identifying youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, bucking a national trend in which the overall suicide rate decreased over the same period of time. The rate of suicidal ideation for transgender and nonbinary youth, specifically, was even higher, with 52% saying they’d seriously considered suicide.
Researchers noted at the time that the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing restrictions related to curbing the spread of the virus may have played a role in increasing feelings of isolation and depression. That conforms with previous research showing LGBTQ youth are at increased risk of negative mental health outcomes, such as anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and drug abuse, due to higher rates of discrimination and rejection by family or peers, and are more likely to report being physically assaulted or harmed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Those feelings of isolation and loneliness may have been especially exacerbated this year, with a slew of states pushing or passing pieces of anti-transgender legislation, such as bills barring transgender athletes from competing in sports consistent with their gender identity, prohibiting transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming medical care, and barring schools from mentioning or acknowledging LGBTQ identity, even in the context of historical figures and their accomplishments.
“Thank you so much to the Trevor Project for this award and for all they do for the LGBTQ community,” Lil Nas X said in a statement. “Discrimination around sexuality and gender identity is still very real, and our community deserves to feel supported and totally free to be themselves. I often 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.”
The Trevor Project offers trained crisis counselors, available 24 hours a day, for those struggling with depression or thoughts of self-harm. Counselors can be reached by calling 1-866-488-7386, contacting The Trevor Project’s online chat rooms, or texting START to 678678. For more information, visit www.TheTrevorProject.org.
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