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BYU Student Wins National Award for LGBT Suicide Prevention

BYU senior Adam White

A Brigham Young University student will be recognized by a national suicide prevention organization this week for his work with the lesbian and gay community in Utah. BYU Senior Adam White will be receiving the ‘Youth Innovator’ Award at the Trevor Project's annual dinner in Los Angeles. Past honorees at TrevorLIVE include Lady Gaga, Neil Patrick Harris, and Queen Latifah.

A video called It Gets Better at Brigham Young Universitywas posted on YouTube in April last year. It features BYU students speaking frankly about their sexuality. Since then, the video has been viewed more than 509,000 times by people all over the world. Adam White was a part of that project.

“A real act of bravery on those students’ part because I mean, we didn’t know where it would do, but it certainly got big, and I’m glad that this honesty is out there, and we are now having this conversation in the Mormon community,” White says.

The video points out that there are about 1800 lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender students on campus, and that 74 percent of them have contemplated suicide. This year, as president of BYU’sUnderstanding Same-Gender Attraction Group, White says there was a lot of concern in the group about members who were at risk for suicide.

“That was a scary place for our group to be,” White says. “We don’t consider ourselves a mental health organization; we consider ourselves a community. As president this year, I did not feel comfortable mentoring or telling people what those best practices are.”

At that same time, White was invited to be on the youth advisory council for The Trevor Project, a national organization that provides crisis and suicide prevention services to LGBT youth. The Trevor Project offered their resources and helped White run a workshop in Provo on suicide. It was at that workshop, hearing from those affected, where White and others got the idea to do another video.

“We thought who better to tell the Mormon community about what it’s like to be LGBT and to suffer so much that you see taking your life as an option - who better to speak to the experience and tell how we can all help than people who had been at risk,” White says.

In October this year, a video was posted on YouTube called Just Be There, featuring a message of suicide prevention awareness. White says LGBT students are now becoming more visible on BYU campus, and that is starting a dialogue.

“That kind of visibility, it’s inspired more conversations to happen on campus of how do we approach diversity, how do we provide spaces for LGBT people, and how do we provide spaces for people who may be suffering from faith crises,” White says. “I don’t think those conversation would have happened without more visibility of LGBT people on campus.”

White will be honored with the Trevor Project’s Youth Innovation Award on December 4th in Los Angeles.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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