An LGBTQ-inclusive bill creating a three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is heading to Donald Trump’s desk after historic votes in Congress.
The bill, known as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline Designation Act, will create the number 988 as a quicker way to access lifeline counselors than the current ten-digit number.
It also marks the first time that legislation containing pro-LGBTQ provisions has passed both houses of Congress by a unanimous vote, The Advocate reports, after the House approved the bill on Monday.
Included in the bill are provisions to require LGBTQ cultural competency training for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s counselors, as well as a voice response option which would allow LGBTQ youth to access specialized care.
“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,” Sam Brinton, Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people, said in a statement.
“According to the Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 40 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months, with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth having seriously considered it.”
They continued: “This vital legislation will require the Lifeline to provide specialized 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.”
The bill passed the Senate by unanimous vote in May, and was sponsored by Republican Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), with Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Jack Reed (D-RI) co-sponsoring. It was introduced in the House by Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Chris Stewart (R-UT).
Formal approval was granted to the 988 number by the FCC on July 16, with a two-year phase-in plan. In the interim, the FCC is advising Americans to continue using the existing Lifeline number, 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).
LGBTQ people are at increased risk of suicide and suicidal ideation, relative to their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. LGBTQ youth in particular experience suicidal ideation and attempt suicide at higher rates than their peers.
The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on Youth Mental Health found that 40% of respondents had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months, with more than half of trans and nonbinary youth seriously consider it.
Almost half of youth reported engaging in self-harm in the twelve months prior to the survey, with that figure rising to 60% for trans an nonbinary youth.
In addition, more than two-thirds of LGBTQ youth overall (and more than three-in-four trans an nonbinary youth) reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the two weeks prior to the survey.
Almost half of youth said they wanted psychological or emotional counseling from a mental health professional, but were unable to receive it, while a third of LGBTQ youth said they had been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to being LGBTQ.
If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, our trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 866-488-7386 via chat TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678-678.
For the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 800-273-TALK, or chat via suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.
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