Congress Just Passed a Bill Establishing a National Three-Digit Code for Suicide Prevention

A bill to establish a national three-digit code for suicide prevention passed the U.S. House of Representatives with near-unanimous accord on Monday.

H.R. 2345 sailed through the House on Monday after every single Senator voted in favor of a companion bill last October. It requires federal government agencies to “perform a cost and benefit analysis of the hotline’s creation and provide recommendations to improve the overall effectiveness of the current system,” as co-author Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) said in a statement.

The 911-like hotline would be staffed with trained mental health professionals ready to assist those in crisis.

“This legislation sets out to enact easily-implementable improvements to our nation’s current suicide-prevention infrastructure,” Johnson added, claiming that the legislation’s goal is to “make these resources available at much greater ease.”

“[M]ore Americans in distress [will be able to] access the resources they need and fewer will feel the only solution is to take their own life,” she continued.

Although co-sponsors highlighted the legislation’s potential impact on veterans’ mental health, the passage of H.R. 2345 could have enormous benefits for LGBTQ youth. According to the national suicide prevention organization The Trevor Project, queer and transgender young people are five times more likely than their straight and cisgender peers to have attempted to take their own lives.

These figures are even higher among trans individuals. Statistics show that 40 percent of transgender people have tried to end their lives, and 92 percent of those attempts occurred before the age of 25.

In comments shared with INTO, The Trevor Project celebrated the bill’s likely enactment into law.

“Since its inception, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has worked tirelessly to constantly improve its crisis services and advance suicide prevention, including innovative public messaging and building cutting-edge partnerships,” claimed Sam Brinton, the youth organization’s head of advocacy and government affairs.

“As we seek to fulfill the specific mandate of the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act to study the effectiveness of this important national resource, it will be critical that the hotline is equipped to most effectively serve all who call,” Brinton continued.

It’s noteworthy that H.R. 2345 was backed by two Republican Congressmen from Utah. Rep. Chris Stewart co-authored the bill, while Sen. Orrin Hatch signed on as a sponsor.

The Beehive State has been the focus of national attention after advocates reported a string of suicides among LGBTQ youth from November 2015 to January 2016. During that time, the support group Mama Dragons claimed that at least 30 queer and trans young people took their own lives — and they say these suicides weren’t officially reported by state officials.

Utah has the fifth-highest rate of suicide in the nation. Critics say the issue reached critical mass, however, after a policy from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was released branding the same-sex couples as “apostates” and barring their children from receiving the rites of baptism.

Children raised by gay parents are only eligible to be blessed in the church if they renounce same-sex marriage upon turning 18.

After delivering an impassioned address calling on his colleagues in the Senate to support LGBTQ youth, Hatch called H.R. 2345 “a first step in helping those contemplating suicide.”

“No one should feel less because of their orientation,” Hatch claimed in the June speech. “They deserve our unwavering love and support. They deserve our validation and the assurance that not only is there a place for them in this society but that it is far better off because of them. These young people need us, and we desperately need them.”

The Senator added that “these young men and women deserve to feel young, cared for, and accepted for who they are.”

“We all have a stake in this,” Hatch continued. “We all have family or loved ones who feel marginalized because of gender identity or sexual orientation, and we need to be there for them.”

Stewart, the other Utah Congressman behind the bill, predicted that H.R. 2345 would “save lives.”

“Every nine minutes someone commits suicide in the U.S., and for every suicide-related death, there are 25 attempts,” he said in a statement. “These are truly heartbreaking statistics and sadly they hit close to home. […] The National Suicide Prevention Hotline Improvement Act is a bipartisan and commonsense piece of legislation that has the ability to save lives.”

The legislation must be approved by President Donald Trump before it can be made into law. But with supermajorities in both houses, Congress would have the ability to override the president’s veto should he refuse to sign it.

Image via Getty

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