Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The LGBTQ suicide prevention line in Oklahoma has experienced a significant surge in calls, with an increase of over 230%, following the passing of Nex Benedict

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The Rainbow Youth Project USA, a group helping LGBTQ youth, got a lot more calls from Oklahoma after Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old who identified as nonbinary, passed away. They died on February 8, a day after talking to family about a fight with others at Owasso High School. The police are still figuring out what caused Nex’s death, and the US Department of Education is checking if the school did enough about the reported harassment.

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, they got over 200% more calls, reaching 1,097. This made them set up a quick-response team in Oklahoma to handle all the calls, especially from Owasso.

Lance Preston, the founder of the Rainbow Youth Project, told CNN that this increase shows the need for support and mental health services for these young people. About 15% of the calls are from worried parents, asking about their rights under Title IX and how to get schools to act against bullying.

The LGBTQ community in Oklahoma faces challenges, as seen with the “bathroom bill” in 2022 and an executive order in 2023. After Nex’s death, the fear among LGBTQ youth has gone up, making them scared to come out and be rejected.

Kris Williams from the Diversity Center of Oklahoma and Lance Preston both think it’s time to calm down the political talk. They believe there is more support in conservative communities than people realize, and it’s important to focus on that instead of hate.

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