Georgia Teen Challenges Congress To Stand Up Against Suicide

June 30, 2020

Sandy Hook Promise Youth Advisory Board Member Arriana Gross Testifies Before House Energy And Commerce Committee

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Today, Arriana Gross, a high school junior in Covington, Georgia and a Sandy Hook Promise Youth Advisory Board member, challenged members of Congress to take immediate action to address teen suicide and mental health. Gross was testifying among a panel of prestigious experts during the House Energy and Commerce hearing on legislation to improve mental health when she implored the representatives to give schools and students desperately-needed resources and support to help prevent suicide by passing the bipartisan STANDUP Act.

“In our school, a year doesn’t go by without a student dying by suicide,” said Arriana Gross, a rising junior at Newton High School in Covington, Georgia and a national Youth Advisory Board and SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere) Promise Club member. “I am concerned that youth suicide has become so common that my school community and our nation is stuck in a pattern of mourning and accepting these deaths as something that is normal, instead of seeing them as preventable.”

If passed, the STANDUP (Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention) Act, led by Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA-52) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12) in the House of Representatives and Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Doug Jones (D-AL) in the Senate, would encourage states to expand access to evidence-based suicide prevention training to every student in grades 6 through 12.

“As students, we see everything—in class, in the neighborhood, and on social media. We’re on social media sites that you probably haven’t even heard of. We see way more than our parents, teachers, and other adults,” said Gross. “But we aren’t given the tools to help our friends struggling with mental health or thinking about suicide. We just need those tools to know how to help in order to save lives.”

Suicide has been the second-leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 10 and 24 since 2010, with rates on the rise among Black youth. While schools have been closed due to COVID-19, Sandy Hook Promise’s Say Something Anonymous Reporting System has seen an increase in tips about suicide, self harm, and abuse. The physical distancing to prevent the spread of the virus is taking an emotional and physical toll on students that is not expected to end when students return to school.

recent report from Well Being Trust estimated that as many as 4,000 additional youth lives will be lost to suicide as a result.

Youth suicide and violence against others is preventable, given that 70% of those who die by suicide tell someone of their plans or demonstrate warning signs and 80% of school shooters tell someone of their plans prior to acting. Yet, too many youth and adults are unaware of the warning signs and signals to look for and how to properly intervene before a tragedy can occur.

At least 20 states currently have laws in place that mandate some manner of suicide prevention training for students or staff.

Sandy Hook Promise’s Know the Signs violence prevention programs have helped avert countless teen suicides, school shootings, and other acts of violence. These programs would meet the STANDUP Act requirements for states.

“I ask the Committee to vote in favor of the bipartisan STANDUP Act of 2020, H.R. 7293 and the Mental Health Services for Students Act, H.R. 1109,” said Gross. “I ask that you act now to prevent another one of my friends from dying by suicide.”

About Sandy Hook Promise:

Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national nonprofit organization based in Newtown, Connecticut. SHP is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.  SHP’s mission is to create a culture engaged in preventing shootings, violence, and other harmful acts in schools. Through its proven Know the Signs programs, SHP educates and empowers youth and adults to recognize, intervene, and get help for individuals who may be socially isolated and/or at risk of hurting themselves or others. SHP is a moderate, above-the-politics organization that supports sensible program and policy solutions that address the “human side” of gun violence by preventing individuals from ever getting to the point of picking up a firearm to hurt themselves or others. Our words, actions, and impact nationwide are intended to honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation. Make the Promise at www.sandyhookpromise.org.

Contact: Aimee Thunberg | [email protected] | 646.761.5579