Newtown, CT – Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 402-20 to pass the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Reauthorization Act of 2022, as part of a larger package addressing the current mental health crisis. The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Reauthorization Act would reopen a federal grant program to support states, tribes, and campuses with implementation of youth suicide prevention and early intervention strategies. Named for the son of former Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) who died by suicide at the age of 21, the bill was originally passed by Congress in 2004 to provide critical preventative support for young people.
Efforts to address the rising suicide rates among our youth have never been more urgent. Suicide has become the second-leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States. Supporting more schools and community programs in offering suicide prevention training is essential in empowering youth to help end this epidemic.
Up until today, federal investment in these solutions has remained stagnant. The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act of 2022 would provide an increase of over $10 million in funding to help meet the growing need.
“Youth suicide is rising at alarming rates. We must equip youth to recognize warning signs and seek help for themselves or others, so we can effectively save lives. The Garrett Lee Smith Act can make this critical training possible for countless students nationwide,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. “We thank Ranking Member McMorris Rogers (R-WA) and Representatives Cindy Axne (D-IA), Young Kim (R-CA) and Lori Trahan (D-MA) for their bipartisan leadership to help ensure funding is never a barrier to youth suicide prevention.”
“The Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act supports states and communities to provide lifesaving care to people in need, especially for children, people suffering from severe mental illness, and those battling substance use disorders. Today in America, children and young adults are in crisis; more than 100,000 people a year are dying from overdoses and fentanyl poisonings, crime is up, and violence is increasing in our schools. There’s an overwhelming sense of anxiety, fear, and isolation. It’s a call for action to turn despair into hope,” said the Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). “That’s why we are leading to reauthorize these critical mental health and substance use programs, including to reauthorize the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which supports community-based youth and young adult suicide prevention programs. I thank all colleagues for the strong bipartisan work that led to today’s passage in the people’s House. Our goal is to continue to build on this for stronger families, stronger communities, and a brighter future for all.”
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, youth mental health was a serious problem that had to be addressed. Today, it’s a crisis, and we need to invest in proven programs that help young people and save lives,” said Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA). “That’s what this bipartisan legislation will do by extending key programs through the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act. Providing more mental health resources, bolstering suicide prevention efforts, and ending the stigma associated with getting help are essential, and I look forward to working with our partners in the Senate to ensure these programs continue well into the future.”
“With over 100 drug overdoses and 132 suicides every single day, it’s clear we have reached crisis mental health levels in our communities. Urgent problems require urgent action,” said Rep. Young Kim (R-CA). “I’m grateful to my colleagues for coming together in a meaningful way to help address this devastating mental health crisis, and I’m proud that the Into the Light for Maternal Mental Health Act and the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act were included to support some of our most vulnerable, as mental health is the most common complication of pregnancy and suicide and overdose are leading causes of death for postpartum women. I will always fight for the public health and wellbeing of Southern California communities.”
“I am pleased to have voted to support community-based youth and young adult mental health education and treatment services as well as suicide prevention efforts. With one in five children, either currently or at some point during their life, facing a seriously debilitating mental illness, we need to act now to ensure young people in Iowa and across the country can immediately access the help that they need,” said Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA).
The passage of the Garrett Lee Smith Act marks another important step toward addressing increasing youth mental health issues. On March 15, President Joseph Biden officially signed Sandy Hook Promise’s Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention (STANDUP) Act into U.S. law, expanding access to evidence-based suicide prevention training for students in grades 6 through 12 at a time of urgent need.
A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate and is expected to be considered in committee shortly.
The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating mental health challenges for young people. 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.
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. The trend for children aged 10-14 is particularly disturbing, with the number having nearly tripled since 2007.
The Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund (SHPAF) is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization committed to protecting all children from gun violence in schools, homes, and communities. The SHP Action Fund advances a holistic policy platform that promotes gun safety, youth mental health, and violence prevention education. The organization works at the state and federal level to pass nonpartisan legislation through inclusive partnerships, diverse grassroots education, and community mobilization. It is part of Sandy Hook Promise, founded and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.
Aimee Thunberg | [email protected] | 646-761-5579