A new bill, one approved by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, has found its way onto the desk of President Trump. The new legislature establishes 988 as a phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and includes a number of LGBTQ+ provisions.
With the Senate’s passing of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act in May and the recent passing in the House of Representatives, the measure has become the first LGBTQ+-inclusive legislature to pass through both houses of Congress by a unanimous vote, according to the Trevor Project.
“988 will undoubtedly save countless lives,” said Sam Brinton, Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs for the Trevor Project, in a press release. “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.”
The new measure includes a few LGBTQ+ provisions to ensure the new service is wholly inclusive. Lifeline counselors, for example, are required to receive LGBTQ+ competency training. An integrated voice response system, aka a menu that can be selected via voice or keypad, specifically for queer youth and other high-risk populations is also required to be implemented in the new service to allow the communities to reach specialized care.
According to the Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 40% of LGBTQ+ youth have seriously considered dying by suicide in the last 12 months, with over half of trans and nonbinary youth reporting a serious consideration.
The House also unanimously approved four other suicide prevention bills on Monday that are now set to be passed to the Senate. The Helping Emergency Responders Overcome Act of 2019, for one, would allow the collection of suicide incidence data among first responders, as well as funding mental health services for this specific community. The House also approved the Campaign to Prevent Suicide Act, which provides funding for a national advertisement campaign for the new 988 number, and the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act of 2019, which grants more funding to the lifeline. The final measure approved by the House is the Suicide Prevention Act, which establishes two grant programs based on the prevention of suicide and self-harm.
“Taken together, this represents a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention and awareness, and we are proud that the House voted overwhelmingly today to pass such important legislation during National Suicide Prevention Month,” House Committee and Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle, and Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo noted in a statement.
If you or someone you love is considering suicide, contact the Lifeline’s full number at (800) 273-8255 (800-273-TALK) or via online chat until 988 goes into effect.
If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, you can contact the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860 for more specific aid. LGBTQ+ youth under 24 considering suicide can also reach out to the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386.