By Juliet Bennett Rylah
WEST HOLLYWOOD — The West Hollywood City Council has voted to move forward with a monument for LGBTQ+ individuals who have died by suicide, provided at least two suicide prevention organizations agree.
The council discussed the monument during its virtual meeting March 1. According to Mayor Lindsey Horvath, who authored the motion with Councilman John Erickson, the monument is a request from the residents who “didn’t quite feel safe or comfortable in a religious-type atmosphere, but wanted a space to create an opportunity for reflection.”
According to a staff report, the discrimination the LGBTQ+ community has faced — including bullying, homophobia, anxiety and possible rejection from family or peers upon coming out — has led to an increase in suicidal ideation, planning and attempts. The report referenced a study that found queer individuals were four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual people. That rate increases for younger individuals and transgender people.
The motion calls for the city’s director of finance and technology services to allocate $7,500 for the monument, which would be placed in a park space in the city. City staff also will consult with the Public Facilities Commission, Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board and the Transgender Advisory Board to determine what the memorial should look like and where it should go.
Current suggestions include a “quiet, meditative location that allows for contemplation and reflection, such as Laurel Park or Kings Road Park.” The goal is to have the memorial installed by Sept. 10, which is also World Suicide Prevention Day.
While the City Council was largely in favor of the monument, Councilman John D’Amico advocated for reaching out to mental health professionals before making a final decision.
“A memorial is usually to the dead from events that have passed, not to an ongoing crisis in which self-harm is the cause and that’s what’s kind of troubling to me a little bit,” D’Amico said. “It’s not a memorial to people who have not yet tried or completed suicide and yet if we install it, that’s kind of what it becomes.”
While noting that he himself would like a place to remember people he knew who had died by suicide, he would prefer getting letters of support from at least two independent organizations that have worked on suicide prevention.
Councilwoman Lauren Meister agreed, saying she would also like to consult those organizations about the monument’s design.
Councilwoman Sepi Shyne also asked that the monument display crucial suicide prevention resources, such as the phone numbers for the Trevor Project’s TrevorLifeline and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
“As people are visiting or contemplating you never know if this number would be beneficial,” Shyne said.
People who are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting themselves or are concerned that someone they know may be in danger of hurting themselves, can call the Trevor Project’s TrevorLifeline at (866) 488-7386 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.
Juliet Bennett Rylah is a freelance reporter who covers Hollywood and West Hollywood. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.