In a letter sent today from Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), the four members of Congress ask the administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) -- within the Department of Health and Human Services -- to discuss "questions and concerns about SAMHSA’s current policies to fight LGBT youth suicide and its recently released draft plan, Leading Change: A Plan for SAMHSA's Roles and Actions 2011-2014."
The four write:
While we applaud SAMHSA for its past and ongoing work in supporting general suicide prevention, we are concerned that SAMHSA’s existing policies may not fully meet the needs of LGBT youth. For example, in contrast to other groups, SAMHSA does not appear to provide special emphasis on young LGBT Americans for specific suicide prevention efforts. SAMHSA should take immediate and specific steps right now to help reduce the risk of additional suicides by young LGBT Americans. This is a serious public health problem which cannot wait.
Moving forward, we recognize and appreciate that SAMHSA does seem to plan a greater focus on LGBT youth in its suicide prevention efforts, as explained in Leading Change. Specially, Objective 1.3.1 details SAMHSA’s intent to “[i]mprove mental, emotional, and behavioral health and well-being among military families, youth, and American Indians and Alaska Natives with a focus on ethnic minority and LGBT youth.” However, this Objective is subsidiary to Goal 1.3, which, unfortunately, fails to recognize LGBT youth specifically as a population at high risk for suicide. Goal 1.3 is written as follows: “Prevent suicides and attempted suicides among populations at high risk, especially military families, youth, and Americans Indians and Alaska Natives.”
Additionally, they ask for answers to several specific questions:
- How are SAMHSA’s programs and those that it supports nationwide with respect to suicide prevention specifically designed to help young LGBT Americans?
- Does SAMHSA plan to take any immediate steps to reduce the risk of suicide among LGBT youth, before the Leading Change plan is finalized? If so, what does SAMHSA intend to do?
- Please elaborate on the meaning of Objective 1.3.1 of Leading Change. What does it mean that there will be a “focus on LGBT youth”?
- Has SAMHSA utilized or supported programming targeted at preventing LGBT youth suicide developed by any outside organizations, such as The Trevor Project’s Lifeguard Workshop Program, which is an educational program for schools using age-appropriate messaging, or the Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools Program, which uses an LGBT-inclusive curriculum designed to address family diversity, gender stereotyping, and bullying in K-5 learning environments? Does it plan to do so in the future? If so, how?
- When will a final version of Leading Change be produced? Does SAMHSA anticipate needing additional resources or legal authority to accomplish any planned efforts relating to combating suicide among LGBT youth, now or in the future?
Read the letter: Letter to SAMHSA re LGBT Youth Suicide.pdf