National Alliance on Mental Illness
page printed from
(800) 950-NAMI;

September 7, 2004

House Set to Take Up Child-Adolescent Suicide Prevention Bill – Action Needed

Later this week, the House of Representatives is set to take up the legislation to bolster state and local efforts to implement effective suicide prevention strategies for young people. The bill, known as the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (S 2634), is named in honor of the late son of Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon. S 2634 would provide states, colleges and local entities the critical resources they need to combat youth suicide.

Action Needed

Advocates are strongly encouraged to call their House member and urge them to support immediate passage of the Garrett Lee Smith Act. Current plans are to vote on the legislation as early as September 8. This legislation has strong bipartisan support and passed the Senate unanimously in June. All House members can be reached by calling 202-224-3121.

In calling House offices, advocates are strongly encouraged to remind members of Congress that:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth aged 10 to 24. 
  • About every two hours, a young person under the age of 25 commits suicide. 
  • Tragically, over 4,000 young lives are lost each year to suicide.
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic disease, combined. 
  • The good news is that with proper mental illness treatment, many of these suicides can be prevented.
  • To help ensure that at-risk youth get the services they need, S 2634 would provide grant funding to states for development of a youth suicide prevention and intervention strategy.
  • By requiring states to distribute at least 85 percent of grant funding to entities that will carry out the implementation of the state strategy, this legislation will help ensure that federal funds will reach youth at risk for suicide.
  • Funds authorized under S 2634 can be used by school districts, juvenile justice systems, local governments and non-profit behavioral health entities to implement a variety of programs targeted at preventing youth suicide, including mental health screening and treatment services.
  • S 2634 also provides support for colleges and universities to establish or enhance their mental illness treatment and outreach services in campuses across the country.
  • S 2634 also establishes a federal Suicide Technical Assistance Center to provide guidance to grantees, establish standards for data collection, and collect, evaluate and disseminate data related to the program.