LGBT Suicide Targeted in National Suicide Prevention Strategy

LGBT suicide targeted in new campaigns for change opened on World Suicide Prevention Day.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services director Kathleen Sebelius speaks at the unveiling of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Surgeon General’s office and cooperating agencies on Monday released the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention for World Suicide Prevention Day, adding a new area of concentration: LGBT suicide.

“Across many different countries, a strong and consistent relationship between sexual orientation and nonfatal suicidal behavior has been observed,” the new document reads. “Lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts in gay and bisexual male adolescents and adults was four times that of comparable heterosexual males.”

Lesbian and bisexual women and girls were twice more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts, the report goes on.

MORE: The 5 Things You Need to Know About Gay Teen Suicide

While emphasizing the problem of LGBT suicide in the U.S. for the first time, the Strategy is a broad-based plan to combat suicide across a range of American groups, including people with mental conditions, members of the military and veteran communities, and Native Americans.

“The 2012 NSSP represents a significant step forward in our ongoing efforts to highlight the unique health needs of the LGBT community and ensure government responsiveness,” Andrew Lane of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention told the Washington Blade.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention was jointly involved in compiling the report. The World Health Organization designated September 10, 2012, as World Suicide Prevention Day; in the United States, the year’s National Suicide Prevention Week runs from September 9 through September 15.

The stress from societal and personal discrimination and negative reaction make LGBT people more prone to suicide attempts, not the struggle with the identity itself.

The strategy points out reasons LGBT community members are at higher risk of suicide, including “minority stress” and “institutional discrimination.”

“‘Minority stress,’ … stems from the cultural and social prejudice attached to minority sexual orientation and gender identity,” the document reads.

“Institutional discrimination,” includes “laws and public policies that create inequities or omit LGBT people from benefits and protections afforded others.”

In other words, the stress from societal and personal discrimination and negative reaction make LGBT suicide attempts more likely, not the struggle with the identity itself.

The report, available here, goes into possible suicide prevention measures, including reducing prejudice against gay people, reducing bullying and increasing access to “LGBT-affirming treatments and mental health services.”

Along with a list of suicide prevention initiatives being launched this week in association with National Suicide Prevention Month, a group called The Trevor Project unveiled a campaign called “Talk to Me,” aimed at fighting LGBT suicide.

The idea behind the initiative, as explained on the group’s Web site is simple—to just talk to someone at higher risk of suicide and let them know you are available to listen without judgment.

The National Strategy is a follow-up to a similar 2001 report and plan to battle suicide in America. The revision was spurred in large part by a need to address the high prevalence of suicide among military and veteran communities. Also announced Monday was a slate of $55.6 million in new grants for suicide prevention efforts from national and state to community and tribal levels.

“Today, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people age 15 to 24,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in remarks at the Strategy’s unveiling. “And we’ve seen especially alarming trends in our Armed Forces.”

“We have a long way to go to achieve our ultimate goal of a nation free from the tragic experience of suicide,” Sebelius said. “But thanks to this strategy and all the partners who have committed to implementing it, we have a clear roadmap for getting there.”

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