Press Releases

Beyer, Katko, Napolitano Introduce Barriers To Suicide Act

Washington, September 12, 2019

U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA) and John Katko (R-NY), the co-chairs of the House Suicide Prevention Task Force, and Grace Napolitano (D-CA), founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus today introduced the Barriers To Suicide Act. The bipartisan legislation would create grants for state and local governments to fund nets and barriers on bridges, which have been shown to reduce suicide.

“The Barriers To Suicide Act would take a big step forward in pushing a national response to the American epidemic of suicide,” said Rep. Don Beyer. “We have clear evidence that restricting the means of suicide saves lives, and this bipartisan bill would help fund a commonsense and proven way to do that for state and local governments. As National Suicide Prevention Month continues, I hope my colleagues will take a look at this and other legislative solutions to prevent suicide.”

Rep. John Katko said, “This month marks National Suicide Prevention Month, and, in recognition of this, I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing important legislation to help prevent suicide.  Nationwide, many bridges lack barriers or sufficient safety nets -- which are proven to deter suicide attempts and are critical to saving lives.  This measure establishes a competitive grant program so that states and local government can apply for federal funding to build safety nets and barriers on bridges, and ensure that those already in place are effective.” 

"Studies have shown that forcing a person in crisis to take even a few minutes to rethink a potentially fatal decision often results in that person never attempting suicide again," said Rep. Grace Napolitano. "These barriers serve as a critical deterrent and will surely save more lives."

The Barriers To Suicide Act would establish a competitive grant program for states and localities to apply for federal funding to install nets and barriers on bridges. Project funding would also be made explicitly eligible under two existing programs: the Surface Transportation Block Grant and the National Highway Performance Program. It would also authorize a study to identify additional strategies to reduce jumping deaths.

“AFSP applauds Congressman Don Beyer as a champion for suicide prevention efforts and for introducing the Barriers to Suicide Act of 2019,” said John Madigan, Senior Vice President and Chief Public Policy Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Means reduction is a key component in suicide prevention. More bridge barriers will greatly assist our lifesaving efforts.”

“Research has shown time and again how barriers are effective ways to prevent suicides,” said Colleen Creighton, Executive Director of the American Association of Suicidology. “Providing the ability to implement these barriers is going to make a drastic difference in this country, keeping family members and friends alive. We fully support the leadership of Representatives Beyer, Katko, and Napolitano on this issue and hope to see this become a standard nationwide.”

major study by the Centers for Disease Control last year found that suicide rates in the United States have risen sharply since 1999. Over 47,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Falling deaths are the fourth leading cause of suicide, according to the CDC statistics. Restricting access to lethal means allows time for a feeling of crisis to pass, and for people experiencing suicidal thoughts to seek help. Several studies show that installing physical barriers and nets on bridges commonly used for suicide, for instance San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, can save lives.

Text of the Barriers To Suicide Act is available here, and a one-pager is available here.