Starting on Tuesday, Feb. 1, the Pride Empathy Line will be open to the public. About 45 volunteers were trained in January to take calls from anyone who is gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender (LGBTQ), or from loved ones who need a shoulder to lean on.
“I took a class at Salt Lake Community College, GLBT Studies,” said Melanie Squire, the founder of the Pride Empathy Line. “When I finished the class I felt like I wanted to pay it forward and help people that are members of this community.”
After speaking with her professor, Squire decided this was the idea she liked and ran with it.
People may need help with a wide range of situations, including LGBTQ people having trouble with bullies. Other people may have difficulty dealing with a friend or loved one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, questioning their own sexuality, or coping with emotional stress.
Statistics show that LGBTQ youth in families who reject their sexuality are eight-times more likely to attempt and sometimes even complete suicide. Because of families like these, a lot of these LGBTQ youth feel rejected, fearful, hopeless, and depressed. This and other reasons is the Pride Empathy Line was created.
“Valley Mental Health as well as some other agencies from the community can and spoke with us [the volunteers] about how to answer calls and be empathic,” said David Aaron Andrews, a SLCC student volunteering for the Pride Empathy Line who also happens to be gay. “They taught us how to deal with calls that are suicidal nature and more about the LGBTQ community in general.”
The Pride Empathy Line is there to let those who may feel like they are different know that they are not alone. The line is there for anyone who needs to vent their problems to and for people who need information or local resources.
“People [in Utah] are a little more closed minded when it comes to differences between sexuality and sexual identity,” said Andrews.
Anyone can call the helpline, including SLCC students. Calls are not taken in a call center; instead, calls are transferred directly to a volunteer’s cell phone, where they can be taken at almost any time.
Those volunteers who take the calls are trained to be helpful, and are ready to assist those who feel isolated, fearful, or suicidal. They are trained to judge a situation appropriately if a person is suicidal.
Anyone who would like to be a part of the Pride Empathy Line, but do not feel comfortable answering phone calls, could be a part of the committee. People on the committee assist the Pride Empathy Line by working on human relations, outreach, or fundraising.
The Pride Empathy Line is in need of more volunteers, donations, or committee members. Anyone who may be in interested in volunteering or donating can visit prideempathyline.org, or contact them on Facebook under Pride Empathy Line for more information.
The Pride Empathy Line is currently teaming up with the Utah Pride Center to better improve the helpline.
For those who are in need to someone to talk to can call the Pride Empathy Line at 1-801-GO-PRIDE.