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‘Vital’ suicide prevention bill becomes first LGBT-inclusive law unanimously approved by Congress in history

Nick Duffy September 22, 2020
LGBT+ young people are more than four times more likely to contemplate suicide than their peers

LGBT+ young people are more than four times more likely to contemplate suicide than their peers (Photo by jinesh darji on Unsplash

A suicide prevention bill that includes LGBT-specific training for helpline workers has become the first ever LGBT-inclusive legislation to pass through the US House of Representatives without a single vote against it.

The house passed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which will allow Americans to dial 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, by unanimous consent on Monday (September 21), sending the bill to the president’s desk.

LGBT+ suicide prevention charity The Trevor Project notes that the bill “is the first that is specifically LGBTQ-inclusive to pass Congress unanimously in history”, with not a single lawmaker casting a vote against it.

In addition to the creation of the 988 number, The Trevor Project notes that the bill “contains several key LGBTQ-inclusive provisions”, including a requirement for Lifeline counsellors to undergo LGBT+ cultural competency training.

The 988 lifeline, which has already been approved by the FCC, would also include an integrated voice response option to help LGBT+ youth and other high-risk populations to access specialised services.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act is the first bill that is specifically LGBT-inclusive to pass Congress unanimously in history
The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act is the first bill that is specifically LGBT-inclusive to pass Congress unanimously in history (Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash)

The bill notes that “youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer are more than four times more likely to contemplate suicide than their peers, with one in five LGBTQ youth and more than one in three transgender youth reporting attempting suicide”.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act will now head to the desk of the president, having been passed through the Senate in May.

The passage of the legislation comes despite major hurdles for other laws relating to LGBT+ people, not least the Equality Act, a non-discrimination bill which continues to be blocked by the Republican leadership in the Senate. Usually the mere mention of LGBT+ issues is enough to give rise to some votes against proposals.

The 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ‘will undoubtedly save countless lives’.

Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, said: “This passage is a historic victory, as this is the first explicitly LGBTQ-inclusive bill to pass unanimously in history — and 988 will undoubtedly save countless lives.

“According to The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 40 per cent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months, with more than half of transgender and non-binary youth having seriously considered it.

“This vital legislation will require the Lifeline to provide specialised services for LGBTQ youth and other high-risk groups, and make it so much easier for millions of Americans to find support in moments of crisis. We express our sincere gratitude to congressmen Moulton and Stewart for their leadership in championing the expansion of suicide prevention resources.”

If you are in the UK and are having suicidal thoughts, suffering from anxiety or depression, or just want to talk, you can contact Samaritans on 116 123 or email [email protected] If you are in the US call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255

More: e National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, National Suicide Prevention Lifelin, suicide

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