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More people are reaching out to the Oklahoma LGBTQ suicide prevention hotline, with calls surging by over 230% following the passing of Nex Benedict

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The Rainbow Youth Project USA, a national group helping LGBTQ youth to avoid suicide, noticed a big increase in crisis calls from Oklahoma after the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old. Nex, who identified as nonbinary, passed away on February 8 after reporting a fight at Owasso High School. Police are still figuring out why Nex died, and the US Department of Education is investigating if the school dealt with harassment properly.

The Rainbow Youth Project usually gets around 325 calls a month from LGBTQ youth in Oklahoma, but in the last two weeks of February 2024, the calls shot up to 1,097. This made the organization set up a quick response team in Oklahoma to handle the increased calls, especially from Owasso.

The rise in calls highlights the need for support and mental health services for LGBTQ youth. Lance Preston, the founder of the Rainbow Youth Project, said that up to 15% of the calls are from worried parents asking about their rights under Title IX and how to encourage schools to act against bullying.

The LGBTQ community in Oklahoma faces challenges, with recent laws like the “bathroom bill” and an executive order from the governor causing more fear among LGBTQ youth. Kris Williams from the Diversity Center of Oklahoma mentioned that LGBTQ youth are now extremely afraid, thinking about rejection and homelessness after Nex’s death.

However, there is some encouragement as some parents are supporting their LGBTQ children. Preston is hopeful but suggests toning down the political arguments. Williams agrees, saying that not all homes in Oklahoma are filled with hate, and there’s more support in conservative communities than people realize.

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