“Although I’ve struggled a lot with being trans, my experience has definitely motivated me to help others,” said Jay, a 22 year-old student from Donegal who works as a trained volunteer for the 50808 text service.
A recent survey by LGBT+ youth organisation BelongTo found that over half of LGBT+ young people have felt suicidal during the Covid-19 crisis and two-thirds have self-harmed or thought about it.
According to the survey, many have difficult relationships with their families and are not fully accepted in their home communities. The organisation is concerned that the “devastating” impact of the lockdown on young LGBT+ people will well outlast the pandemic.
50808 connects people to trained Crisis Volunteers for everything from a calming chat to immediate support. Crisis Volunteers from the LGBT+ community are best placed to support LGBT+ texters.
Jay explained: “I wish 50808 had existed when I was at my worst because I often felt like I was alone and had no one to talk to as a teenager. I know a lot of people might be too afraid to ask for help for fear of judgment, but we are absolutely not here for that. We’re here for whatever your crisis, big or small.”
Although he was daunted at first to get involved, Jay quickly found that the 50808 community was hugely supportive and provided an abundance of training.
“One of my biggest fears was what if I don’t know what to say? But trust me, after your training, volunteering becomes natural in no time and your supervisor is always there to provide help. The best part is when someone thanks you at the end of a conversation. I can’t really explain it. You might not even know the person’s name, but knowing that they feel better because you were there for them is amazing. I was quite insecure before, but volunteering has really boosted my confidence and taught me how to help people in my own life.”
80% of texters to 50808 have been between the ages of 16 and 34, further pointing to particularly high levels of anxiety among young LGBT+ people. 50% of texters reached out because they didn’t have anyone else to talk to, 48% wanted to talk to someone who didn’t know them, 40% felt more comfortable texting than talking, 31% felt too embarrassed to talk on the phone or in-person and 31% didn’t have access to a therapist.
Jay urges anyone to contact 50808, regardless of how insignificant they think their problems may be.
“I went through years of not telling anyone how I was feeling and not getting help, but I’ve come a long way now. I know a lot of people might be too afraid to text in thinking we would judge them but we are absolutely not here for that. We’re here for whatever your crisis is, big or small. Even if you don’t think it’s a problem, we’re here to help you with it.”
Visit the 50808 website for more information.
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