The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) Manager of Federal Policy Trevor Summerfield was in attendance for a Congressional briefing on LGBT Family Acceptance and Youth Suicide Prevention hosted by Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) on Thursday, May 29, 2014. LGBT suicide prevention is one of AFSP’s Federal policy priorities and appreciated the opportunity to be part of the conversation with members of congress and experts in LGBT issues on what has and can be done to prevent suicide among the LGBT populations.
The panelists included Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), Representative Grace Napolitano (D-CA), The Trevor Project’s Executive Director and CEO Ms. Abbe Land, The Trevor Project’s Youth Advisory Council members Ms. Charlie Kerr, The Family Acceptance Project’s Founder and Project Director Dr. Caitlyn Ryan, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Director of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs and LGBT Policy Lead Mr. Brian Altman, and The Trevor Project’s Government Affairs Director Ms. Alison Gill.
The main focus of the briefing was on Dr. Caitlyn Ryan’s Family Acceptance Project which is a community research, intervention, education, and policy initiative that works to decrease major health related risks for LGBT youth such as suicide and substance abuse.
Rates of attempted suicide and other suicidal behavior have been consistently high among a proportion of LGBT youth in community-based studies and, more recently, population-based research. Dr. Ryan’s approach operates at the family level to help families, foster families, and caregivers decrease rejecting behaviors that put LGBT youth at risk and increase supportive behaviors that protect against suicide risk.
Dr. Ryan’s research shows the impact of specific family rejecting behaviors (such as preventing an adolescent from having a LGBT friend, preventing their child from participating in LGBT activities, or excluding their child from family events and activities because of his or her identity) that are associated with a nine-times-greater likelihood of attempted suicide. Additionally, the research indicates that family accepting behaviors (such as supporting their child’s gender expression and welcoming their child’s LGBT friends) help protect against suicidal behavior and other risks, and promote good self-esteem and overall health in young adulthood.
This spring, AFSP partnered with Dr. Ryan and the Family Acceptance Project to launch a pilot educational program called Involving Families in LGBT Youth Suicide Prevention, which was hosted by six AFSP chapters across the country. Centered on the Family Acceptance Project’s groundbreaking research-based films, “Always My Son” and “Families Are Forever”, this educational program seeks to educate families and communities about the key role that families play in reducing suicide risk in LGBT youth, and promoting their health, safety, and well-being.
AFSP looks forward to continuing to work with members of Congress and groups like the Family Acceptance Project and the Trevor Project moving forward on legislation that aims to reduce suicide among LGBT youth including the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, the Mental Health in Schools Act, and the Suicide Prevention Research Innovation Act (SPRINT Act).