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US: Models walk the New York runway to fight LGBT+ suicide

Image: psycom.net

Models will strut the runway during New York’s semi-annual Fashion Week to help prevent suicide among LGBT+ teens, taking advantage of the crowds and attention to raise awareness of the risk to more than 1 million young people.

Dubbed #YOLO: You Only Live Once, the show on Saturday is aimed at raising money for the anti-suicide cause, organisers said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly a third of LGBT+ high school students seriously considered suicide in 2015 compared to 6 percent of heterosexual youth.

On Saturday, the show by Supermodels Unlimited Magazine, a beauty industry publication for women, hopes to reach the upscale and trendsetting crowd to talk about stopping suicide.

“As a society, we don’t talk about it,” Kimberly Clark, Supermodel Unlimited’s editor in chief, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to not be OK. Let’s break the stigma.”

Clark described suicide as an epidemic that has touched everyone in the industry in some way.

Even industry leaders like Kate Spade, who took her life in June, feel they cannot talk about their pain, Clark said.

“If somebody like Kate Spade can’t talk about what she’s going through, how can we teach these kids to talk about it?”

All the proceeds of the show go to The Trevor Project, a suicide-prevention group for LGBT+ people under age 25.

The funds raised will contribute to the organisation’s daily operations, which include multiple emergency phone banks and chat systems that youth considering suicide can call for help, Trevor Project leader, Amit Paley, said.

“I think it’s really important and will help save lives,” Paley said.

Paley started working at the Trevor Project as a volunteer on the phone lines, the organisation’s first line of defence, and said he was surprised by the effectiveness a conversation can have in preventing suicide.

“In many cases, it is the first time that they are hearing someone say, ‘I see you for who you are. I am proud of you for being who you are,” said Paley.

This weekend’s event has already garnered support from models, musicians and reality TV stars personally affected by suicide, and allies of the LGBT+ community.

Fashion photographer and reality star, Erika Barker, will walk the runway to honour transgender military members.

America’s Next Top Model contestant, Jeana Turner, will also walk, and singer and American Idol contestant, Effie Passero, will close the show.

-Kate Ryan, Thomson Reuters Foundation

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