Last week, Sue Ann O’Brien LPC, MBA, of Behavioral Health Link, testified before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee.
The hearing, called “Strengthening Communications Networks to Help Americans in Crisis,” included six witnesses who spoke on eight separate bills. O’Brien testified on suicide prevention and 988—the 3-digit dialing code the FCC has begun to make the nationwide number for mental health and suicide crisis.
The specific legislation she addressed is H.R. 4194, the “National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2019.” The bipartisan bill, said O’Brien, is “a historic step toward saving more American lives.”
In her oral testimony, she highlighted three primary points:
- Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States
- Faster access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will save lives
- Funding and specialized services are vital for the success of 988
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans overall and the 2nd leading cause of death for those ages 10-34. O’Brien shared with the subcommittee that nearly 50,000 Americans died in 2018, over 1,000 more than the previous year. Some populations, such as veterans, African American youth, Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Natives, and LGBTQ youth are particularly vulnerable to suicide. In fact, LGBTQ youth are “four times more likely than their heterosexual peers to contemplate suicide.” Furthermore, noted O’Brien, the suicide attempt rate for transgender youth has skyrocketed.