Newtown, CT – Yesterday, a bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives introduced the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Reauthorization Act of 2022, legislation that would reauthorize a federal grant program to support states, tribes, and campuses with the 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.
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 U.S. Supporting more schools and community programs in offering suicide prevention training is essential in empowering youth to help address 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 a public health epidemic. One that is entirely preventable. By equipping youth to recognize warning signs in themselves and others and seek help, we can save lives and reverse these alarming trends. This legislation would help ensure funding is never a barrier to suicide prevention,” 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 tragedy. “We thank Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA) and Representatives Cindy Axne (D-IA), Young Kim (R-CA), and Lori Trahan (D-MA) for their crucial bipartisan leadership in helping save young lives by reauthorizing and increasing support for the Garrett Lee Smith program.”
“The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial programs save lives and give hope to young adults in need of rescue from despair,” said Rep. Rodgers. “COVID-19 lockdowns have resulted in mental health emergencies, and children and young adults of all ages are in crisis. This is an urgent time to ensure these strong bipartisan programs can continue to support youth in our communities. I appreciate all my colleagues who are leading this bill with me. Let’s continue to build on this work for a more secure future for the next generation, especially in providing healing for those struggling with the trials of life.”
“The youth mental health crisis has only been made worse by the challenges of the pandemic,” said Rep. Lori Trahan. “We have an obligation to meet this moment of urgency with the comprehensive solutions and resources our children need. I’m proud to join with colleagues to fulfill part of that obligation – reauthorizing the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act and the key programs it supports to provide mental health resources, bolster suicide prevention efforts, and end the stigma associated with getting help.”
“Every day, 125 Americans die by suicide, and mental health issues have become more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a mother of four and new grandmother, I mourn with parents who have lost their children due to suicide and want to do all I can to support resources that uplift our communities,” said Rep. Young Kim. “I’m proud to join Ranking Member McMorris Rodgers and Reps. Axne and Trahan to ensure Garrett Lee Smith community-based youth and young adult suicide prevention programs can continue their important work to support young people across the nation. I will do everything I can to help individuals improve their access to mental health care to meet their health needs.”
“Our country’s worsening mental health crisis is taking a devastating toll on young people, and the need to invest in youth mental health and suicide prevention efforts couldn’t be more dire,” said Rep. Cindy Axne. “This legislation will provide continued support for critical suicide prevention programs for years to come and ensure that young people in Iowa and across the country can access the help that they need. I’m proud to work with my colleagues on this pressing issue to combat the mental health crisis and save lives.”
The introduction 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.
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.
About the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund
The Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) Action Fund 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 levels 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