Israel’s Program to Fight Teen Suicide Neglects Gay Youth, Group Says

Israel Gay Youth says gay teens are eight times more likely to attempt suicide.

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Revelers wave rainbow flags during the annual gay pride parade in Tel Aviv June 13, 2014. Credit: Reuters
Yarden Skop

The group Israel Gay Youth says a state program to prevent teen suicide does not address gay young people even though they have a much higher attempted suicide rate.

Members of the group visited the Knesset on Tuesday to take part in debates marking International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. They submitted a position paper putting the rate of attempted teen suicide in the LGBT community at 20 percent, compared with 2.5 percent for teens overall.

The paper, submitted to Health Minister Yael German, the Knesset Education Committee and the Israeli council to prevent suicide, is based on a 2012 study by Dr. Hannah Bar-Yosef.

“Despite the government’s decision and despite the clear figures we have cited, gay young people are not recognized as a risk group and are not specifically addressed in the national program and the activities of the council to prevent suicide,” the paper says.

Ran Leabel of Israel Gay Youth said German told the group a year ago that the country’s antisuicide program would stress suicide attempts by gay teens.

“Afterward we received a letter saying the council recognized that gay youth had a high suicide rate, but that, unfortunately, due to budgetary difficulties, they couldn’t respond to the challenges we had set,” he said. “We can’t understand how the Health Ministry, despite the council’s recommendation to take care of this community, won’t allocate a budget for it.”

The Health Ministry, for its part, said each local authority sets up a “steering committee consisting of welfare, education, health, immigration and police officials. The committee locates and takes care of high-risk groups based on the authority’s policy, guided by the national program.”

According to a statement by the ministry, “The gay community is seen as a high-risk group like youth, the elderly, immigrants from Ethiopia, immigrants from the former Soviet Union, divorced fathers and others, which the local authorities take care of.”

It said the national council had suggested to Gay Youth “to present their troubles to the council and receive an explanation about the program, as representatives of other groups have done . Specific training is being planned as part of the national program to prevent suicide.”