At a regular West Hollywood council meeting on Monday, March 1, 2021, the council unanimously voted to move forward with a motion to look into installing a memorial honoring lives lost to suicides in the LGBTQ+ communituy. The item brought forward by Mayor Lindsey Horvath and Councilmember John Erickson directs city staff to follow the City’s Memorials, Tribute Trees and Plaques Policy Guideline to review the request to install a memorial at a park space in West Hollywood.
Council member John D’Amico had two requests: He wanted to get no less than two organizations who are involved in suicide prevention to weigh and go on the record by speaking at a council meeting or through a letter expressing their support for the memorial.
He also requested it go through various commissions, including the Human Services Commission, before it is presented to council. He said he hoped to see it in a May or June, 2021 agenda for the commissions and in an August, 2021 agenda for the council.
“I want to make sure we have some engagement from the social services agencies that provide these services, mental health and suicide prevention and from organizations that are sort of third party organizations that we don’t pay, I’d like to get them to weigh in as well,” he stated at the meeting.
Council member Sepi Shine would like see the Trevor Project hotline–an organization that focuses on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ individuals through a toll-free telephone number–or the national suicide hotline on display in whatever the memorial ends up being. “I think it will be helpful to get that information out to anyone who would need that info because they do save lives,” she said.
D’Amico made the motion to move forward and hopefully have it before the council by August of this year.
The city is directing staff to follow the procedure as outlined in the City’s Memorials, Tribute Trees and Plaques Policy Guidelines to approve and install a memorial for the lives lost to LGBT suicides in the community at a park space in West Hollywood. Staff will gather feedback from the Public Facilities Commission, Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, the Transgender Advisory Board and now the Human Resources Commission. They will weigh in on an appropriate design and location for the memorial.
The Director of Finance & Technology Services will look into allocating $7,500 from budgeted funds in the Special Council Programs account number 100-1-01-00- 531003 for costs associated with the purchase and installation of the memorial.
According to the background analysis, research shows that anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and victimization contribute to an increase in the risk of suicides in the LGBTQ+ community and that LGBTQ+ people are at a disproportionate risk of suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts.
A 2015 review found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals were four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual people. In transgender communities, those rates are even higher: 43% of transgender people have attempted suicide in their lifetime. The numbers among LGBTQ+ youth are significantly higher than among the general population. LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth and suicide attempts by LGBQ youth are four to six times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers. Many people in the LGBTQ+ community experience bullying, discrimination, homophobia, depression, anxiety, violence, and societal and family rejection. The passage of laws that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people have also been shown to have significant negative impacts on the physical and mental health and well-being of LGBTQ+ youth. Policies and interventions that effectively reduce stigma and discrimination while strengthening support networks and community connectedness could help reduce the risk of suicide for LGBTQ adults and youth.
There are resources available for people who are thinking about suicide and in need of immediate support, including the Trevor Project’s TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
The memorial may include a plaque, bench, or other marker to signify the space. Council also directs staff to gather feedback from the Public Facilities Commission, Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, and the Transgender Advisory Board on an appropriate design and location for the memorial. The location should be a quiet, meditative location that allows for contemplation and reflection, such as Laurel Park or Kings Road Park.
September is officially recognized as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month with September 10 designated as World Suicide Prevention Day. The hope is that this memorial can be installed by this date to provide the community with a physical space for reflection and remembrance.