Press Releases

Beyer, Katko, Napolitano Re-Introduce Barriers To Suicide Act

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 re-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 help strengthen our national response to the alarming American epidemic of suicide,” said Rep. Don Beyer. “Restricting the means of suicide saves lives, and this bipartisan bill would help fund a proven method for state and local governments to do that. I hope my colleagues will continue to support this and other legislative solutions to prevent suicide.”

Rep. John Katko said, “As Co-Chair of the bipartisan Mental Health Caucus, I’m proud to again join my colleagues in introducing the Barriers to Suicide Act. 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 governments 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."

“AFSP commends Reps. Beyer, Katko, and Napolitano for being champions for suicide prevention and for introducing the Barriers to Suicide Act,” said Robert Gebbia, Chief Executive Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Reducing access to lethal means is a proven, research supported component of suicide prevention. Having more bridge barriers will save 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.

A major study by the Centers for Disease Control in 2018 found that suicide rates in the United States have risen sharply since 1999. Over 48,000 Americans died by suicide in 2018, 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.

The Barriers to Suicide Act is cosponsored by Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Cindy Axne (D-IA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Andre Carson (D-IN), David Trone (D-MD), Conor Lamb (D-PA), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Josh Harder (D-CA), Susan Wild (D-PA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), and Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), and endorsed by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) [endorsement letter here], Mental Health Liaison Group (MHLG) [endorsement letter here], National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), American Association of Suicidology, The Jed Foundation (JED), American Psychological Association, Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance (MMHLA), Well Being Trust, American Counseling Association, College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists, School Social Work Association of America, NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, National Association for Children's Behavioral Health, and RI International.

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