The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Action Alliance for Suicide prevention announced a new strategy for preventing suicides nationally Sept. 10.
The revised National Strategy for Suicide Prevent (NSSP), released on World Suicide Prevention Day, contains interventions specific to LGBT people.
According to an Action Alliance statement, the plan aims to save 20,000 lives and contains 13 goals for the next decade.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were among a group of high-profile officials to present the new strategy at at a Washington D.C. press conference.
"Our message today is one of hope," said Sebelius in a statement. "The national strategy will bring together the nation's resources, both public and private, in an organized effort to provide life saving services and improve the ability of individuals, friends and family members to recognize the warning signs of despair and take action to save lives."
Others announcing the plan included Gordon Smith, president of the National Association of Broadcasters; Scott Gould, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; John McHugh, secretary of the Army; Marne Levine, global vice president of public policy for Facebook; Heyward Donigan, CEO of ValueOptions; and Pamela Hyde, administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.
The strategy identifies LGBT people as an at-risk group but notes that rates of suicide among LGBT people remain unknown, in part because death certificates do not include such information.
Still NSSP points to numbers that suggest LGBT people are at greater risk of suicide than the general population. The strategy notes that 12-19 percent of LGB adults report suicide attempts, compared with just five percent in the general population. Similarly 30 percent of LGB adolescents report suicide attempts compared with 8-10 percent of their age group.
Suicide rates among LGB people are especially high among African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans, the strategy notes.
According to the plan, LGBT people are at a greater risk of suicidal behavior due to discrimination, family rejection, harassment, violence and victimization.
NSSP advocates for increasing access to LGBT-affirming healthcare and combatting prejudice and bullying. It notes that LGBT groups and suicide prevention organizations need to collaborate to create prevention resources and improve access to prevention care for LGBT people.
It goes on state that the federal government is trying to create procedures for identifying suicide victims who are LGBT.
The new strategy, which builds off a prevention plan launched in 2001, comes alongside the announcement of $55.6 million in suicide prevention grants to be distributed nationally, in part through the Affordable Care Act.
The strategy is two years in the making. Sebelius and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for the plan in September 2010 when the Action Alliance launched.