Youth Suicide Prevention Legislation to Save Lives During Pandemic and Beyond
Today, Sandy Hook Promise celebrates the reintroduction of the Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention (STANDUP) Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. This legislation passed the House in 2020 with unanimous, bi-partisan support, but never received consideration in the Senate. If passed into law, the bill would help expand access to evidence-based suicide prevention training for students in grades 6 through 12.
Sandy Hook Promise praises U.S. Members of Congress Scott Peters (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) for championing this life-saving legislation.
“Prior to the pandemic, suicide was already the second-leading cause of death for young people in the United States. Since COVID-19 started, students have become more socially isolated, stressed, and lonely than ever before. It’s critically important to provide suicide prevention training for our students now,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. “We thank Reps. Scott Peters and Gus Bilirakis for their leadership on this issue and urge more elected officials to join them in support and act fast to save lives. Millions of students nationwide are counting on you.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since 2010, suicide has been the second-leading cause of death for young Americans ages 10-24, and the trend for children aged 10-14 is particularly disturbing, with the number having nearly tripled since 2007. Unfortunately, there are early indicators that the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating mental health challenges for young people. Recent data from Mental Health America finds youth aged 11-17 disproportionately experiencing severe depression and anxiety, including a 10% increase in screening for depression and a 14% increase in screening for anxiety.
“There’s never been a more important time to invest in suicide prevention training for our students. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt our lives, we must remain vigilant in addressing the unique mental health challenges affecting children and teens right now. The STANDUP Act takes a proactive, evidence-based approach by equipping students and educators with the skills they need to identify, intervene and get help for those at risk of harming themselves or others. The crisis of youth suicide requires urgent action, and this bill will ensure students across the country have trained adults and peers looking out for them,” said Rep. Peters.
“There is no higher priority than keeping our children safe. By providing high quality screening and prevention training to school staff and peers, we can identify threats before they materialize, and ensure that those who are at risk get the mental health treatment they need. I’ve seen first-hand how effective these programs can be when I visited a high school in Pinellas which has already implemented these best practices. Sadly, some communities in my district are among those with the highest suicide rates in our state, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. With training like this, we can help reverse that troubling trend,” said Rep. Bilirakis.
In June 2020, Arriana Gross, a high school junior in Covington, Georgia and a Sandy Hook Promise Youth Advisory Board member, spoke to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee during a hearing on mental health about the importance of addressing teen suicide and mental wellness. In her testimony, Arriana asked the Committee to advance legislation like the STANDUP Act that supports student mental wellness and suicide prevention.
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.
Aimee Thunberg | [email protected] | 646-761-5579