Advocates say Collins coming out will help prevent LGBT suicides - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Advocates say Collins coming out will help prevent LGBT suicides

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When Jason Collins, the 34-year-old backup center for the Washington Wizards, revealed he was gay, it made him one of the most-watched NBA players -- but advocates say he is also helping gay youth.

Gay rights advocates say suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people, and it affects gay and lesbian teens three to four times as much. Now, some are saying Colilns' announcement could literally save lives.

"I never set out to be the first," Collins said. "You are sort of waiting around for someone else to raise their hand."

Collins is the first openly gay athlete in a major league sport, and he has been praised by other athletes and even President Barack Obama for breaking barriers.

"To see a role model like that who's unafraid, I think it's a great thing," Obama said.

Collins' confession may do much more than making it easier for other gay athletes to do the same.

"What it does is: It gives you the opportunity to say, 'That's me too,'" explained Dan Reidenberg, with the suicide prevention group SAVE.

According to Reidenberg, gay teenagers are up to four times more likely to think about committing suicide than their straight counterparts -- but he says Collins public announcement could help gay teens who feel isolated by harassment, bullying and rejection from family or friends understand that they are not alone.

"His coming out will save lives because it will help us prevent some tragedies in the GLBT community," Reidenberg explained. "Because he is willing to come out and say, 'This is who I am and you can be who you are and not have to fear.'"

Abbe Land, the executive director of the Trevor Project, described Collins' decision to come out as a "very positive step" for preventing suicides among gay youth.

"We are very proud of Jason coming out and being public about who he is," Land said via Skype from California.

Land said having a high-profile athlete come out lets young people know they can be who they are and still see their dreams come true.

"Kids say, 'Wow, maybe I could play in the sport I love and get acceptance.' So, I think it sends a powerful message and saves lives and changes destinies for young people," Land said.

Additional resources:

- The Trevor Project:
- Trevor Lifeline: 866-488-7386

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