The Trevor Project builds trust among LGBTQ youth with Twilio’s help

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Content warning: The following material highlights a Twilio nonprofit customer working to prevent suicide in the LGBTQ youth community. We encourage discretion for readers.

For over a year, nonprofit organizations have worked tirelessly to aid those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond the threat to physical health, people are also navigating isolation, economic crises, and political instability. Those hit hardest by the pandemic and its impact have often been those from already-marginalized communities, including LGBTQ people.

In a U.S. survey, 74 percent of LGBTQ people said the stress of the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health, while only 49 percent of non-LGBTQ people said the same, and data shows LGBTQ youth are more than four times more likely to commit suicide than their peers.

This staggering data reveals how the pandemic has created an even greater need to make help accessible. For an organization like The Trevor Project, whose mission is to provide care, resources, and advocacy to ultimately end suicide among LGBTQ youth, the need to scale so rapidly can be a daunting challenge—one they’ve met by building a powerful communications system to serve people in crisis faster and more effectively.

Scaling when it’s needed most

For more than 20 years, The Trevor Project has been providing free and confidential crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth via phone, text, and chat.

Their SMS platform, TrevorText, played a crucial role in those services because SMS is a channel many young people can access safely and discreetly. But technical limitations inherent to the legacy messaging platform in place before Twilio meant their system suffered from a 10 second delay for each message, and those seconds can mean everything when someone is in crisis—so they set out to find a solution.

When The Trevor Project implemented Twilio Programmable Messaging as part of an overall platform relaunch, they were able to eliminate that message delay and save 10 minutes per conversation on average. This allowed them to provide more quality support to LGBTQ youth, and contributed to a 22 percent increase in crisis contacts served over six months.

Saving time wasn’t the only benefit of their new Twilio-powered system: they were also able to integrate intelligent tools like a pre-counseling risk assessment, conversation transfers to different staff, and more to help them sustainably scale to the needs of their users.

For example, the machine learning tools they’ve integrated can analyze the content of messages and flag them by level of priority. Messages flagged as higher priority are then moved to the front of the queue, allowing the person who texted in to connect to a volunteer as quickly as possible.

The data gleaned from these interactions then helps counselors develop more effective strategies for helping their users navigate crises, creating essential balance between AI-scalability and a human-first approach.

“Twilio Flex will give us the opportunity to serve more youth at once, build a consistent experience for our volunteers and crisis workers, and empower our community to support from wherever they are remotely.”

Amit Paley CEO And Director

Building the future of crisis communication

The Trevor Project is continuing to build new, innovative ways to improve their crisis communications. Thanks to the success of their partnership with Twilio, their team is expanding even further with a human-centric platform built with Twilio Flex to level up their capabilities.

Trevor is using Flex to unify channels and streamline agent workflows, making it simpler to serve more people in crisis. “Twilio Flex will give us the opportunity to serve more youth at once, build a consistent experience for our volunteers and crisis workers, and empower our community to support from wherever they are remotely,” said Amit Paley, CEO and director of The Trevor Project.

Thanks to the flexibility and trusted infrastructure of Twilio APIs, they’re able to continue evolving their services as they learn, grow, and work toward their life-saving mission.

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