Leading Suicide Prevention Orgs Ask the 11th Circuit to Rehear Florida Conversion Therapy Case

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The Trevor Project, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and American Association of Suicidology partnered in an amicus curiae brief to emphasize the need for municipalities to address the strong association between conversion therapy and increased suicide risk.

LGBTQ youth who have undergone conversion therapy are more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide as those who did not.

Today, The Trevor Project, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) united to ask the entire 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear the case of Otto v. City of Boca Raton (No. 19-10604). On November 20, 2020, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit ruled in a split opinion with a powerful dissent to strike down local laws protecting youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy in the City of Boca Raton and the County of Palm Beach, Florida.

“Conversion therapy is an extremely dangerous practice, and governments are right to act to protect their young LGBTQ residents from its well-documented harms. We are hopeful that the 11th Circuit will act en banc to reverse this outlier decision that would put LGBTQ youth back in harm’s way,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project. “According to The Trevor Project’s research, LGBTQ youth who have undergone conversion therapy are more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide as those who did not. We are proud to file this brief together with other leading suicide prevention organizations to send a united message that legal protections from conversion therapy are necessary to save young lives.”

“AFSP stands with the research, clinical expertise, and expert consensus of every major professional mental health organization that the practice of conversion therapy is inappropriate and harmful,” said Robert Gebbia, CEO of AFSP. “Conversion therapy has not been proven to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. But it can and often does invoke feelings of rejection, guilt, confusion, and shame and can lead to decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, social withdrawal, depression, anxiety, and increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior. Sadly, these damaging effects can last well into adulthood with individuals subjected to conversion therapy reporting lower life satisfaction, less social support, and lower socio-economic status including less educational attainment and less weekly income. It is vital to hold health providers accountable and require that they follow an ethical code to first, do no harm, and that prohibits the provision of services with no scientific or medical basis.”

“The American Association of Suicidology absolutely condemns the use of LGBTQ conversion therapy,” said Colleen Creighton, CEO of AAS. “As other organizations and research studies affirm, this practice is incredibly harmful to individuals who are subjected to it. Significant increases in risk of suicide are often the result of this type of practice. That risk is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of outcomes, as it often leads to an overall lower quality of life for an individual. Just as radical, abhorrent treatments of the past have been discarded after being proven harmful and ineffective, sexual orientation conversion therapy must also be barred from use. The ethical and compassionate decision of our society is to condemn its use and to hold the value of human life and wellbeing at a higher standard.”

The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey of over 40,000 LGBTQ youth found that 10% of respondents reported undergoing conversion therapy, with 78% reporting it occurred when they were under age 18. Youth who reported undergoing conversion therapy reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not. And these findings are reaffirmed in a peer-reviewed study by The Trevor Project published in the American Journal of Public Health, which found that LGBTQ youth who underwent conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide and more than 2.5 times as likely to report multiple suicide attempts in the past year.

AFSP’s position statement on conversion therapy can be found here. AAS’s Research Division statement on the evidence of conversion therapy’s harms can be found here.

The Trevor Project, AFSP, and AAS were represented in this matter by pro bono counsel from Gibson Dunn, including Stuart Delery, Abbey Hudson, Shireen Barday, Dione Garlick, Emily Maxim Lamm, Bethany Saul, and Randi Brown.

About The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people. The Trevor Project offers a suite of 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention programs, including TrevorLifeline, TrevorText, and TrevorChat as well as the world’s largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth, TrevorSpace. Trevor also operates an education program with resources for youth-serving adults and organizations, an advocacy department fighting for pro-LGBTQ legislation and against anti-LGBTQ rhetoric/policy positions, and a research team to discover the most effective means to help young LGBTQ people in crisis and end suicide.

About AFSP
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

About AAS
The American Association of Suicidology is the world’s largest membership-based suicide prevention organization. Founded in 1968 by Edwin S. Shneidman, PhD, AAS promotes the research of suicide and its prevention, public awareness programs, public education and training for professionals and volunteers. The membership of AAS includes mental health and public health professionals, researchers, suicide prevention and crisis intervention centers, school districts, crisis center professionals, survivors of suicide loss, attempt survivors, and a variety of laypersons who have in interest in suicide prevention. You can learn more about AAS at http://www.suicidology.org

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Rob Todaro
The Trevor Project
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