Pamela Hyde

On World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates launched a new public-private partnership called National Action Alliance on Suicide Prevention (“Action Alliance”).

“This alliance gives us an opportunity to engage every sector of society-public, private and philanthropic,” said Secretary Sebelius. “Now we will be able to work together more effectively than ever before to reach people at risk and help them stay safe.”

The Action Alliance’s own press release was more specific about groups at risk, acknowledging that “…we have high rates of non-fatal suicide attempts in other groups, especially young Latinas and Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender (LGBT) youths.”

The Action Alliance is coordinated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at US Department of Health and Human Services.  SAMHSA also administers the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

SAMHSA’s Administrator Pamela Hyde, an openly gay Obama appointee, stated in a recent letter to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) that Action Alliance “will shortly announce the establishment of a task force to reduce suicide among LGBT youth.”

The task force, she said, will be co-led by Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, US Department of Education, and by Charles Robbins, Executive Director of The Trevor Project.  The Trevor Project is a national suicide prevention program for LGBT youth.

Jennings founded the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which “strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.”  Like Hyde, Jennings is an openly-gay Obama appointee.

“SAMHSA recognizes that LGBT youth face unique risk factors that make them vulnerable to suicide,” said Hyde.  Her agency “will use its programs and initiatives to ensure a focus on LGBT youth. …We are deeply committed to improving the social-emotional conditions and circumstances for LGBT youth.”

Planning for the task force began in September with the convening of the Action Alliance Executive Committee and was an outcome of the interests and expertise of its members, Sally Spencer-Thomas from the Action Alliance Press Office told me in a telephone interview.  Hyde, Jennings and Robbins all sit on Action Alliance’s Executive Committee.  

The LGBT task force will be formally announced by the end of the year, said Spencer-Thomas, along with task forces geared for other at-risk populations including American Indians/Alaska Natives, military veterans and their families and Latina youths.